Alex Schalk’s last gasp winner was enough to deliver Ross County a first ever major silverware win when they lifted the Scottish League Cup in a 2-1 win over Hibernian at Hampden Park on Sunday.
In a first half largely controlled by the Hibees, it was the Staggies who went ahead through Michael Gardyne before Liam Fontaine equalised for Hibs.
As both sides looked for a winner it was Fontaine’s poor fortune that gifted Schalk the opportunity to win the cup for County, and he took it with aplomb.
Both sides had injuries to contest with before the game, with creative pair Fraser Fyvie and Dylan McGeouch missing for Hibs, and first choice goalkeeper Scott Fox missing for Jim McIntyre’s men.
The game was hectic from the early stages and it was Hibs who were first to try their luck at goal, with stand-in keeper Gary Woods having to smartly palm a Jason Cummings effort over the bar.
Despite Hibs’ early pressure it was County who managed to take their chance; a slack pass from Kevin Thomson saw County pick the ball up halfway in the Hibernian half, and after Schalk’s initial pass to Gardyne went off target, the impressive Jackson Irvine managed to pick the Staggies’ all-time leading scorer out to round Mark Oxley and slot home.
Hibs quickly managed to pick themselves up after the initial setback, with Darren McGregor having a half-chance from a corner, and Woods again thwarted Cummings after an audacious chip from the youngster.
It was from a set-piece on the stroke of half time where Hibs would find their equaliser. The corner from Liam Henderson bounced around the penalty spot until it found Fontaine who smashed the ball into the far corner.
The momentum looked to be on Hibs’ side after the equaliser, and both Cummings and on-loan Celtic striker Anthony Stokes had early chances as Hibs looked to break County’s resolve.
Alan Stubbs looked to throw caution to the wind as he replaced Thomson with forward James Keatings as the ex-Everton man looked to bring the League Cup to Easter Road for the first time in nine years.
McIntyre also looked to make changes to throw the tie in his favour, replacing the quiet Liam Boyce with Brian Graham who seemed to give County an outlet up-front, and the big striker was unlucky to see his header into the goal ruled out for a foul on Oxley, harshly.
The ever-impressive Irvine made sure Hibs couldn’t turn to star performer John McGinn as they have so many times this season, with the Australian martialling the Scotland under-21 captain for the majority of the game.
It was Irvine who would start the counter that would lead County to their first ever piece of major silverware. The former Celtic man found space in his own half and started the attack which saw Gardyne break down the left, and his ball across the box made Fontaine divert his clearance into the path of Schalk who tucked the ball home to send County fans into raptures as they secured a memorable day at Hampden.
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