Derek Adams has resigned as Ross County manager after less than three months in charge after a 5-0 defeat at Motherwell hastened the end of an unhappy third spell at the club.

The cinch Premiership club announced Adams would leave with immediate effect, less than 24 hours after their Fir Park thrashing saw them stuck in 11th place and six points behind the team who had been immediately above them in the league.

Adams cast doubt over his future after the match after admitting Motherwell could have scored more goals.

In a statement, chairman Roy MacGregor said: “We have agreed to accept his resignation in the best interest of both Derek and the club.

“We would like to place on record our thanks to Derek, and we wish him well for whatever he chooses to do in the future.”

Adams returned to County on November 20 after leaving Morecambe to replace the sacked Malky Mackay.

The 48-year-old revealed his decision came “after much consideration in recent weeks”.

He added on the County website: “Over my 12 league games in charge, we moved six points clear of the team directly below and have been extremely close to gaining more victories and draws along the way.

“Ross County Football Club is close to my heart after twice playing here and managing for a third time.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank chairman Roy MacGregor and (chief executive) Steven Ferguson and wish them well for the future.”

Adams secured seven points from his first three games in charge but the Dingwall side have only collected two points from a possible 24 since and exited the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup with a 3-0 home defeat against Partick Thistle.

Adams claimed his former club Morecambe were 100 times better than County after losing a late winning goal against Dundee in his fifth match in charge and launched a scathing attack on the “shocking” standard of Scottish football.

The former Plymouth and Bradford manager then hinted after the cup defeat by Thistle that he would have had second thoughts about taking the job for a third time had he done more homework.

In an interview with BBC Scotland at Fir Park, he admitted he would “think things through” and “look at the bigger picture” for the club and himself.

Adams signed seven players in January but the reshaping of his squad did not have any immediate positive effect and he was hit by long-term injuries to the likes of defenders Jack Baldwin and Connor Randall.

County will now look for a solution ahead of their next game against Rangers at Ibrox on February 17 with the backroom staff remaining in position.

Both managers felt Motherwell could have scored more in their 5-0 victory over Ross County.

Blair Spittal hit two brilliantly-taken goals and both Andy Halliday and Jack Vale netted their first goals for the club, while Theo Bair converted a penalty to make it six goals in five cinch Premiership games.

But Bair also had three one-one-ones, being denied twice by George Wickens and chipping just wide, and County’s two centre-backs were consistently exposed.

After his side moved a point off the top six after just a second win in 20 league games, Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell said: “It’s a top-drawer performance. To beat any team in this league 5-0, you’re playing well.

“I felt you saw what was an accumulation of what I feel has been some good performances. Sometimes you feel as if you’re patronising supporters and people in the media but I genuinely do believe we were working towards a win.

“We have been functioning well as a team, six unbeaten now, and that puts a nice finish to it with the five goals. But probably the ruthless side of me says that it could and should have been several more. We had some wonderful opportunities.

“The ruthless side of me says that we still want to work towards a better conversion rate but I have just reminded everyone it’s one game of football.”

Ross County have now collected only two points from eight games since beating Motherwell two months ago and fell six points behind their opponents.

Manager Derek Adams said: “Motherwell were the better side, obviously, scored goals and could have scored a lot more.”

Adams blamed “decision-making on and off the ball” for the heavy scoreline.

“We didn’t deal well enough with the runners,” he added. “It’s the basics of defending, isn’t it? Seeing your man in front of you. As soon as your man is in front of you then you’ve got a problem.

“The Motherwell attacker was on our shoulder a number of times and was able to get in behind. They had some good runs in behind and I thought they were excellent. They picked us off and scored five.

“Our goalkeeper, George Wickens, was very good and kept us in the game.”

Adams admitted getting out of the bottom two would be an uphill task.

“It’s very difficult because we’re five points adrift now,” he said.

“Well, we’re in the same position as we were when I came into the football club 11 games ago.

“Motherwell have had two wins in 20 games, we have had two wins in 11 games. That tells its own story. The problems are continuing.”

Theo Bair scored for a fifth consecutive cinch Premiership game as Motherwell thrashed Ross County 5-0 at Fir Park.

The former St Johnstone forward put Motherwell three up with a 38th-minute penalty to make it six goals during his run and eight for the season.

Blair Spittal struck two brilliantly-taken goals and both Andy Halliday and Jack Vale hit their first Motherwell goals as the Steelmen recorded their biggest victory since beating the same opponents by the same scoreline under Steven Hammell in October 2022.

Despite claiming only a second win in 20 league games, Stuart Kettlewell’s side moved one point off the top six and opened up a six-point lead over second-bottom County.

Derek Adams’ side have not won since beating Motherwell two months ago and have only collected two points in that period.

Bair could easily have had a hat-trick as Motherwell took advantage of an open County structure which left their two centre-backs exposed.

Motherwell were ahead in the eighth minute when Spittal fed Bair to square for Halliday to sweep home from 12 yards.

The home side doubled their lead in the 21st minute when Spittal latched on to Halliday’s pass and curled a powerful shot in off the far post from the left corner of the box.

It initially looked like being a frustrating night for Bair, who was twice set up for one-on-ones by Spittal but was foiled by George Wickens each time.

The striker could not quite reach Spittal’s low cross and was then waiting for a tap-in when Harry Paton picked the wrong option.

Bair came closer when he chested down Stephen O’Donnell’s diagonal ball and volleyed into the top corner from 18 yards, only to be denied by the offside flag.

But the Canada international got his goal after Paton was tripped by Will Nightingale, assuming penalty duties from Spittal, who missed his last effort against Alloa. Bair shrugged off a needlessly-lengthy VAR delay to send Wickens the wrong way.

County had plenty of possession in the first half but Motherwell generally blocked their way to goal with some compact defending and effective pressing. Liam Kelly comfortably saved from Simon Murray in the visitors’ only effort on target before the break.

Motherwell looked comfortable after the restart without seriously threatening and Murray missed a glorious chance to give the visitors a lifeline midway through the second half when he sent a free header wide from six yards out.

The hosts otherwise looked the far more dangerous side. Bair was again played through by Spittal and appeared to have done everything right when he dinked the ball over Wickens but his effort drifted just wide.

Wickens saved well from Georgie Gent after slack play from James Brown but the goalkeeper was well beaten in the 87th minute when Spittal curled a majestic strike into the top corner from 25 yards.

The midfielder then played a perfect pass in between the County central defence for on-loan Blackburn forward Vale to run on to and slot home in stoppage-time.

David Martindale admitted his interest in signing Inverness midfielder David Carson after Livingston came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Ross County at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Simon Murray gave the Staggies the lead after 28 minutes but that was cancelled out by Livi midfielder Scott Pittman just before the break.

Murray fired in a second in the 85th minute but Livi substitute Dan MacKay levelled with a header three minutes later for a deserved point.

The Lions have gone 15 league games without a win and remain six points adrift of second-bottom County in the table having played two games more than the Staggies.

Asked about Carson, Martindale said: “I’ve spoken to a few. Maybe it is something we will try to pursue.

“But the focus was the game today, so I’ve not really been that active on it but he is someone we have spoken to.”

On the game, Martindale added: “It was frustrating. I sound like a lunatic but there’s been a lot of good performances over the last five or six weeks.

“It’s hard to be critical of a lot of the players on the park. Offensively we were very good.

“We had a lot of chances and we have to hit the target.

“We created plenty but the defending is nowhere near the levels we need.

“We did show character to come back twice. We were nervous in the first half but once they scored, that sparked us into life.

“We got a foothold in the game. Then the boys dug in and got us back to 2-2 and showed huge character.

“The goals we’re losing at this level is extremely worrying.”

Derek Adams had six January signings playing again and will look to add one, possibly two more to his squad before the transfer window closes, although he does not envisage losing midfielder Yan Dhanda early to Hearts.

The midfielder has reportedly agreed a pre-contract with the Gorgie club but the County boss does not believe Hearts will pay a fee to take him to Tynecastle in this window.

Adams said: “Well unless Hearts were able to pay money and the club thought it was acceptable. I wouldn’t want to lose him between now and the end of the season.

“But if a club comes up with the money that that club accepts, then you can’t do anything about that.

“But it looks like it’s highly unlikely because Hearts have said they’ve got no money to spend.

“We’ll look to do one more, possibly two by the window finishing. I’d like to do two. It might not happen, but we’ll hopefully do one.”

Bottom side Livingston showed fighting spirit to come from behind twice to grab a 2-2 draw against fellow strugglers Ross County at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Striker Simon Murray’s terrific strike after 28 minutes gave the Staggies the lead but Livi midfielder Scott Pittman poached an equaliser just before the break.

Murray fired in a second in the 85th minute but Livi substitute Dan MacKay levelled with a header three minutes later for a deserved point.

The Lions have gone 15 league games without a win, remain six points adrift of second-bottom County in the table and have played two games more than the Dingwall men, but David Martindale can take some encouragement from his side’s display.

Seeking solutions – and fast – Martindale brought back Joel Nouble, Pittman, Kurtis Guthrie and Jamie Brandon.

Derek Adams took some hope from the narrow 1-0 defeat away to Celtic on Saturday and kept the same team which included six January signings – George Wickens, Loick Ayina, Teddy Jenks, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Brandon Khela and Eli King.

Midfielder Yan Dhanda, who has agreed a pre-contract with Hearts, captained the side in front of a sparse crowd.

The match took time to warm up.

In the 24th minute a James Penrice cross from wide on the left almost caught out County goalkeeper Wickens, who scooped the ball away from under his crossbar with Livi failing to capitalise on a moment of panic in the visiting box.

Moments later, the Highland club took the lead.

Murray raced onto a searching Dhanda pass and under pressure inside the box from defender Ayo Obiliye he hammered the ball high past keeper Michael McGovern from a tight angle.

The offside flag went up but a VAR check confirmed the goal, allowing Murray to celebrate his 12th of the season.

Obiliye went close with a curling effort from 20 yards as Livi responded and just before the break, Pittman reacted quickly to a Guthrie knockdown inside the box and stabbed the ball past Wickens from six yards.

Livi’s Steven Bradley missed the target with a low drive before the interval and play zipped from end to end when play resumed.

In the 68th minute, McGovern made up for fumbling Dhanda’s cross inside his six-yard box by blocking a close-range drive from Staggies substitute Jordan White.

However, Livingston looked like they could snatch another goal and a series of deliveries into the County box were repelled.

Pittman curled a shot just past a post and then, with the goal gaping, attacker Bruce Anderson missed the target from a cutback from fellow sub MacKay, who may have been offside anyway.

But there was late drama.

County raced up the park and when a cross from substitute Josh Sims arrived at Murray at the back post, he fired past McGovern from 12 yards.

Livi were not to be denied, though, and MacKay headed in a Jason Holt cross to maintain the status quo at the bottom.

Derek Adams has continued his Ross County squad overhaul by signing goalkeeper George Wickens on loan from Fulham and allowing  defender Ben Purrington to depart for Exeter City.

Wickens, 22, is yet to make a senior appearance for the west London club, although he got some experience of first-team football while on loan at National League side Wealdstone in the 2021-22 campaign.

The 6ft 5ins goalkeeper, who has represented England at under-18 level, will provide competition and cover for County number one Ross Laidlaw.

Left-back Purrington has moved to Sky Bet League One side Exeter for an undisclosed fee.

The 27-year-old joined the Staggies in July 2022 from Charlton and made
33 appearances, scoring twice.

Purrington is the fourth player to leave County this month, with Ben Paton departing upon expiry of his contract, Kyle Turner joining Raith Rovers on loan and Scott High returning to parent club Huddersfield.

The Staggies, who appointed Adams as manager in November, are currently 11th in the cinch Premiership and looking to ease their relegation concerns when the campaign resumes later this month following the winter break.

Lawrence Shankland continued his red-hot scoring form as Hearts came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Ross County.

After the controversial decision not to award the Jambos a penalty when Alan Forrest appeared to be tripped by Ross Laidlaw early in the second half, County looked on course for victory following an Alex Cochrane own goal and a stunning free-kick from Yan Dhanda.

But substitute Kenneth Vargas sparked Hearts’ fightback with a cool finish before Shankland, the cinch Premiership’s top scorer, netted his 17th of the season and his 12th in 13 matches to secure a draw that kept his team two points clear of Kilmarnock in third place with a game in hand.

Hearts boss Steven Naismith made three changes to the team that started the midweek win away to Hibernian as Stephen Kingsley, Forrest and Beni Baningime were replaced by Craig Halkett, Alex Lowry and Kyosuke Tagawa.

County were back in action for the first time since being eviscerated by their own manager following a 1-0 home defeat by Dundee a fortnight previously.

Derek Adams – hoping for a positive response to his post-match claim that former team Morecambe were “100 times better” than County – made two changes as Will Nightingale and Conor Randall were replaced by Max Sheaf and Josh Sims.

The Staggies had the ball in the net in the second minute when Ben Purrington headed home but it was ruled out for offside against Jordan White in the build-up.

The home side then enjoyed a spell of pressure as Lowry, Frankie Kent and Tagawa all threatened within the space of five minutes.

County were generally holding their own, however, and they should have gone ahead in the 19th minute when Simon Murray was released on goal but Zander Clark made an excellent save before reacting to deny Josh Sims from the follow-up attempt seconds later.

The Staggies threatened again in the 29th minute when White got himself clear in the box, but Halkett slid in to make a vital block.

Hearts boss Naismith made two changes for the start of the second half in an effort to spark an improvement, with Forrest and Yutaro Oda sent on in place of Tagawa and Aidan Denholm.

Forrest looked to have made a swift impact in the 51st minute when he was released by a pass from Shankland and appeared to be tripped as he tried to go round Laidlaw, only to be yellow-carded for diving. Replays suggested there was contact.

It proved a pivotal moment as County went ahead four minutes later when Cochrane knocked Murray’s cross into his own net as he slid in to challenge Sims on the edge of the six-yard box.

And the visitors doubled their lead in the 61st minute when Dhanda curled in a delightful free-kick from 25 yards out.

Hearts rallied, however, and substitute Vargas got them back in the game in the 71st minute when he latched on to a through ball and slotted calmly beyond Laidlaw.

Eight minutes later Shankland secured a point with a superb left-footed finish after he was teed up just inside the box by Calem Nieuwenhof.

Dundee’s home game against Aberdeen was called off about an hour before kick-off to become the second cinch Premiership casualty of the wet weather.

The game between Ross County and Hibernian was earlier postponed after a 10am pitch inspection with the surface at the Global Energy Stadium deemed unplayable because of a waterlogged pitch.

Dundee announced after 2pm that their game had been called off by referee David Munro.

A short statement read: “Due to persistent heavy rain this afternoon’s match against Aberdeen has been called off. The referee deeming that the goalmouth area of the pitch is unplayable. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to supporters.”

Aberdeen added: “Our game with Dundee this afternoon has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and concerns over player safety.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell expressed his “shame” after a 3-0 defeat against former club Ross County.

Kettlewell held his hands up in apology to the 94 travelling fans who braved the wintry conditions to witness their side go 12 cinch Premiership games without a victory.

Simon Murray headed County in front from a corner inside two minutes as Well lost the first goal for the 11th time in their barren run.

Yan Dhanda curled home from 22 yards inside 18 minutes and Ben Purrington knocked home a rebound in the second half as a static Motherwell defence was beaten again.

Kettlewell, who saw Calum Butcher and Dan Casey pick up injuries, the latter a serious one, said: “Everyone knows how difficult that road can be in winter and how far away it is and we had a group of fans who came up here to support the team in the hope we’d put on a performance, and it was miles away from what it has to be when people spend that cash and time to come up here.

“And there’s a bit of shame in that when you see people travelling up here and that’s the level they get.

“I feel very, very sorry for the supporters that came here because, having seen it, the better decision would be to stay in the house.

“The level of performance was so far removed from where it needs to be to be competitive in this league.

“Then add in the injuries to Butcher and Casey, when you piece all that together along with the troubles and difficult run we’re on, that makes it the toughest ever game for me to watch.”

Motherwell have only collected four points out of a possible 36.

Kettlewell said: “You have to scrap and fight your way out of it and I didn’t see an awful lot of that in the first 45 minutes in particular. You can see the dent it has conceding that early goal.

“So much of it becomes that mentality, a little bit of fear coming in and people maybe not looking for the ball.

“You have to have belief in yourself, envisage there’s a way out of it and trust in the guys around about you to make sure that happens.

“My greatest frustration is I’m dealing with a group of players who have shown that in spade loads during my time at the club and for whatever reason at this minute in time it’s coming up seriously short.”

Casey was carried off on a stretcher after the final whistle.

“It looks a real bad one,” Kettlewell said.

“He has a brace in his leg and it looks like he is heading to hospital. I think he said he felt some sort of crack in his leg.”

County made it seven points and three clean sheets from three matches since Derek Adams returned as manager.

Adams, who saw Will Nightingale sent off in stoppage time, said: “The confidence is there – we played on the front foot – and I thought defensively we were good.

“We stepped forward with the ball and created some really good movements in the game. We were unfortunate not to score more.”

Derek Adams continued an impressive start to his third Ross County reign as a 3-0 victory over Motherwell left his former player Stuart Kettlewell under increasing pressure.

County have now taken seven points from three games without conceding a goal since Adams returned from Morecambe to replace Malky Mackay.

Former County player and manager Kettlewell has seen his extended honeymoon period in charge at Fir Park thoroughly collapse. Well have now gone 12 cinch Premiership games without a win and taken just four points in that run, which hit a new low in Dingwall.

The Steelmen conceded the opening goal for the 11th time in those 12 games when Simon Murray headed home from a second-minute corner.

They had an even bigger task facing them inside 18 minutes when Yan Dhanda curled home an excellent finish from 22 yards.

Ben Purrington netted from the rebound in the second half to round off County’s first win over their visitors in seven attempts.

County were unchanged from last Tuesday’s win over St Mirren while Kettlewell had Callum Slattery back from suspension and also brought in Theo Bair and Conor Wilkinson, the latter starting in an advanced midfield role.

The Staggies took the lead when Murray met James Brown’s inswinging delivery at the near post and glanced home his 11th goal of the season. Blair Spittal claimed he had been pushed from behind by Murray, but there was a relatively short delay before the game restarted.

It was the seventh time in as many games that a corner had directly or indirectly led to a goal against Motherwell.

Well initially threatened a comeback. Bair came close from 20 yards and Ross Laidlaw made a good double stop from Slattery and Stephen O’Donnell.

But County doubled their lead when Dhanda collected the ball, drifted inside of Wilkinson and had time to whip the ball inside far post.

It could have got worse for the visitors before half-time. Murray saw a shot deflected off the post from 20 yards and headed just over from another corner. A slick passing move then cut Mothewell open but Connor Randall shot straight at Liam Kelly.

Kettlewell made three substitutions at the break as Georgie Gent, Davor Zdravkovski and Calum Butcher came on.

But it was too easy for the hosts as they went further ahead in the 56th minute. Dhanda crossed after a good passing interchange, Jordan White’s free header was only parried by Kelly and Purrington was free to knock home the rebound.

The flag went up for offside, but it looked a straightforward decision to overturn in the VAR centre.

Motherwell showed some signs of a response. Gent had a header tipped over and Mika Biereth flicked a good chance wide before seeing an effort cleared off the line by Jack Baldwin.

But the hosts could also have added to their lead with Victor Loturi and Simon Murray coming close.

The only down side for County was a stoppage-time red card for Will Nightingale, who received two quickfire yellow cards.

Motherwell’s misery was compounded by a serious injury in stoppage time for defender Dan Casey, who was carried off the pitch on a stretcher after his team-mates had gone down the tunnel.

Derek Adams declared himself satisfied as his third spell as Ross County manager began with a goalless home draw against Kilmarnock.

County went a 10th game without victory but there were enough encouraging signs for Malky Mackay’s replacement.

The home side had the better chances and James Brown and Connor Randall had efforts cleared off the line in the first half.

Adams, who left Morecambe to return to County on Monday, said: “It was a great start for us. In the first period of the game we started from the centre and went forward and created some really good opportunities.

“Kilmarnock cleared two off the line and the players showed a willingness to get into the penalty area.

“We got a point, but I thought we had the best opportunities to win it.

“We changed things in the formation at the start of the game and at half-time as well to try to get the better of Kilmarnock and to deal with their threat as well, which I thought worked well.

“Over the piece, I have to be pleased with a clean sheet. On the other hand, we could maybe have done better with the chances we did create.”

Killie remain without a Premiership away win but the point kept them in the top six.

Manager Derek McInnes said: “We came here to win but the best players on the pitch were defenders, for both teams.

“I thought Ross County had the best of the first half, but we had the better moments probably in the second.

“I would think that both teams were searching for a bit more quality in the final bit.

“I thought we were worthy of our point, but I don’t think we did enough to win the game.”

Ross County have taken the shock decision to sack Malky Mackay as manager.

The Staggies have gone nine games without a win and slipped to 11th place in the cinch Premiership with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by St Johnstone in Perth.

However, their recent run includes draws away to Dundee, Motherwell and Hibernian in their past five games, as well as a defeat to Celtic, and only two points separate the bottom five.

A club statement announced that County had “parted company” with former Watford, Cardiff and Wigan manager Mackay.

It added: “Malky joined the club in the summer of 2021 and had great success in leading the team to a top six finish and a manager of the year nomination in his first season.

“His determination and drive to succeed was a contributing factor in saving Ross County from relegation at end of season 2022/23 with the now historic penalty shoot-out play-off win against Partick Thistle in Dingwall.

“But, after a meeting between Malky, chairman Roy MacGregor and CEO Steven Ferguson, the club have decided that a change is now required.”

MacGregor said: “Malky has brought so much more to the club and the wider staff than just football management.

“The board would like to put on record our thanks for his contribution over the last two and a half years and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career.”

Craig Levein feels his St Johnstone side have overcome their fears after battling to a vital 1-0 victory over Ross County in the cinch Premiership.

Graham Carey’s wonderful curling effort 19 minutes from time clinched the win for Saints and lifted them off the foot of the table and up to 10th.

Levein saw his team squander a 2-0 advantage in his first match in charge against Motherwell but there was no repeat as they held firm in the latter stages against the Staggies.

“I talked to them after the Motherwell game about us getting spooked, well I think we’ve dealt with the ghosts now and that is evidence enough that we can cope with pressure in a situation where we are in front,” said Levein.

“I can’t off the top of my head remember a clear-cut opportunity for Ross County so that pleases me enormously.

“The second half, I think we had more control of the game and what a goal to win any game – that’s the quality Graham has got.

“There’s some glimpses of good stuff, some really good things today but hopefully we can get more of them.“

St Johnstone have picked up seven points from their last three league fixtures, and Levein has his sights set on climbing the table.

Following the international break, the former Hearts boss will take his team to Tynecastle hoping to extend their undefeated run to four matches.

“It helps in the short term but we need to use it to put together a run where we can actually not just get off the bottom of the table,” he added.

“The ambition has got to be to try climb the table and that’s what we’ll try and do.”

Malky Mackay was disappointed as his side dropped into the relegation play-off position following a poor showing in Perth.

St Johnstone goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov was rarely troubled over the course of the 90 minutes, and the Staggies boss felt his side lacked the qualities that had seen them pick up a point from each of their previous three away league fixtures.

“When I look at it in the end, we didn’t have enough that were showing that extra little bit of responsibility today and that’s not like them – if nothing else we are a brave team,” he said.

“Over the last couple of weeks – the three away games at Dundee, Motherwell and Hibs – we’ve shown up really well.

“It was a scrappy game today, I said at half-time that one moment of quality was going to change this game between both teams and Graham Carey scores a very good goal.

“We just didn’t have that extra little bit of cutting edge and quality all over the park actually that we’ve shown in the last couple of weeks – especially away from home.”

St Johnstone moved off the foot of the cinch Premiership table with a priceless 1-0 victory over Ross County at McDiarmid Park.

Graham Carey’s brilliant strike following a fantastic team move clinched Saints’ second win of the season and made it seven points from their last three league encounters.

Craig Levein’s side moved up into 10th place, a point ahead of County who now find themselves in the play-off position – while Livingston have dropped to bottom spot on goal difference.

Levein made one change to the side that were pegged back against Motherwell in midweek, James Brown returning to the starting eleven to replace Sven Sprangler.

Will Nightingale and Ben Purrington returned to the County defence in the place of the suspended James Brown and George Harmon, who began the game on the bench.

A tepid first half brought little in the way of entertainment, with neither side able to enjoy a sustained spell of possession.

The visitors had a penalty claim waved away after eight minutes when the ball appeared to strike the arm of Matt Smith.

It took until just before the half-hour mark for the first effort on goal, Carey skewing a low drive past the post.

Saints goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov had virtually been a spectator during the opening 42 minutes, though he was eventually worked when he comfortably held Scott Allardice’s shot from just outside the box – the first attempt on target of the game.

County boss Malky Mackay replaced Victor Loturi with Kyle Turner at the break in an attempt to inject some much-needed attacking spark into his team.

It was St Johnstone who began the second half the brighter of the two though, passing up two good opportunities within the space of a minute.

Nicky Clark’s overhead kick beat Ross Laidlaw before cannoning back off the crossbar prior to Carey being denied by the legs of the Staggies keeper.

The game was showing signs of opening up, and a swift break by the away side led to a good opportunity for Yan Dhanda who blazed over from a promising position.

Saints were dealt a blow on 62 minutes when Clark limped off after sustaining what appeared to be a calf injury, forcing Levein to introduce Stevie May in place of the in-form striker who had scored three goals in his last three appearances.

The opening goal arrived with 19 minutes remaining. Luke Robinson’s charging run led to May finding Carey on the edge of the box, and the midfielder curled a wonderful effort beyond the helpless visiting keeper.

May should have put the game out of sight after 85 minutes when he linked with Daniel Phillips, but he fired his effort straight at the County keeper.

The home supporters erupted on the final whistle, as they had the opportunity to savour three points that could prove to be very significant come the end of the season.

Malky Mackay was disappointed Ross County did not leave Easter Road with a victory after they fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Hibernian.

The Staggies looked to be staring at defeat when they trailed to goals from Elie Youan and Jair Tavares.

But they roared back strongly to claim a point courtesy of an Allan Delferriere own goal and a strike from substitute Jordan White.

Mackay was pleased with the spirit his team showed to get a third successive away draw but he felt they could have claimed all three points after Ryan Leak and Will Nightingale both missed late chances to win it.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Mackay. “I’m delighted in the performance and comeback. I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t win the game.

“In the first half we were excellent and controlled a lot of the game. We didn’t quite pull the trigger and I was really disappointed to lose the deflection before half-time because it changed things when the crowd were starting to get restless.

“Second half we started well, lost a good goal from their point of view and at 2-0 you think ‘this could get away from us here’.

“But we were brave and continued to play and find openings and we eventually got the goals. I’m disappointed because we had another couple of great chances near the end to win it.”

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery rued his team’s performance and the way they squandered a position of command ahead of this weekend’s Viaplay Cup semi-final against Aberdeen.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated,” he said. “We failed to manage the game properly. I’m disappointed in the display and result.

“Jair scored his first goal for the club, which was a fantastic moment for him, but we have to be disappointed with the goals we gave away but credit to Ross County for keeping going and throwing bodies in the box. We didn’t deal with that as well as we should.

“We felt frustration from the fans. We were winning 2-0, not playing well but if you get three points you move forward. It feels like we’ve thrown two points away but we have to move on and get ready for a big game on Saturday.”

Hibs appeared to lose their way after Montgomery made three substitutions midway through the second half.

“I wanted to get fresh legs on,” said the manager. “Some changes were enforced, some I felt would give us energy after a tough game on the weekend.

“You don’t want to risk players carrying knocks but I take full responsibility for the team selection and subs. We’ll review the game tomorrow.

“Maybe we could have been more prepared when the subs came on but that’s something we can address. I take responsibility for the team, the subs and a disappointing result.”

It emerged before the match that billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley has begun talks aimed at investing in Hibs.

“I’m not going to comment on speculation, that’s for the board and the CEO and the owners,” said Montgomery. “All I’m concentrating on is football.

“Of course any club getting investment is probably looked on as a positive but it’s not right for me to comment on any speculation.”

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