Allow me to set the scene, won’t you?
No matter what happened today at
Victoria Park Global Engery Stadium in Dingwall, Ross County F.C.’s first campaign in the Scottish Premier League was an absolute, runaway, success. The goal when the season began was simply to “stay up” and that goal has been in the rearview mirror for months now, meaning that every achievement since then has been a “milestone.”
Going into today’s Highland Derby even with a win Ross County could not improve their league position and they could not qualify for Europe (it’s a dizzying thought that playing in Europe was actually an issue this season!), Inverness Caledonian Thistle could improve their position with a win and could qualify for Europe.
Full disclosure forces me to admit that, going into this derby match, things did not look good for Ross County as the best they’d been able to manage in their first three matches in the SPL this season was a 0-0 draw- actually they hadn’t beaten ICT since 2009. Keep in mind, however, the two clubs had been in different divisions during that stretch!
Which brings us to today, and to Andre Hainault. Hainault joined County during the January transfer window and his time at Ross County got off to a sputtering start. First their were delays in getting his work permit, then some niggling injuries, and then he was sick for a while All of which meant that instead of competing for a place in the starting eleven he watched newcomers Evangelos Oikonomu and Mihael Kovacevic cement their positions in the back line along side Grant Munro and Scott Boyd.
When Hainault was fit he was initially relegated to “garbage time.” He showed enough during these brief appearances (and, one assumes, during training) that he eventually did move into the starting line up, starting the last four matches and impressing the County faithful each and every time with his tackling ability and footballing instincts. Though only signed through today’s match, there are many who would like to see Hainault back in Dingwall next season.
And that was before the 44th minute of today’s match when, before a packed house, Hainault latched on to a poor clearance from the Inverness defense and thumped a volley past Antonio Reguero and into the back of the net. County were able to keep the pressure on ICT during the second half, dominating in terms of shots and shots on goal despite ICT having the bulk of possession.
So, that’s County in fifth place for the year, only one point behind their Highland Derby rivals.
I’ll be back in a day or two with a rundown of all of the club’s numbers and achievements this season, but for now I want to say that I couldn’t be more proud of what this club has done this year and I’m equally proud of how they’ve done it.
Next season? Europe!