Ross County manager Malky Mackay paid tribute to his troubled squad as they began the cinch Premiership season with a goalless draw at home to St Johnstone.
It has been a difficult pre-season for Mackay following his appointment in May, with two Premier Sports Cup games forfeited following a Covid-19 outbreak, leading to an early exit from the competition.
A mass exodus of players also coincided with his arrival after John Hughes had kept County in the top flight in the final game of his short-term reign.
And Mackay could not have been happier with the result against Saints, who saw Ali McCann blast a 70th-minute penalty over the crossbar while substitute Liam Craig also hit the woodwork late on at Dingwall.
He said: “It’s been a really tough few weeks. Two weeks ago they were all sitting in the house because of Covid.
“We’d already had the huge turnover of 15 players leaving and we only have five in so far. We only have 14 fit players and three or four children on the bench.
“Two of the boys were in the Gold Cup three days ago in America and Harry Paton was somewhere over the Atlantic 18 hours ago.
“For him to come, fly into London and fly up here this morning – and end up sitting on the bench and getting on the pitch – is testament to him.
“I was just waiting on a big wave coming in from the Cromarty Firth and taking the stadium out. It’s about the only thing that’s not happened so far.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. Callum (St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson) has a really well-drilled team. They had a fantastic season.
“But credit to my team. They changed their system twice during the game so we’re delighted with the clean sheet.”
St Johnstone had high hopes of a winning start to the season after a tremendous 2020-21 campaign which saw them win both domestic cups and finish fifth in the league.
Boss Callum Davidson refused to blame McCann for the disappointing result though, as attention now turns towards next week’s Europa League third qualifying round tie at Galatasaray.
He said: “I thought it was a game we should have won. First half both teams played the same system.
“It was quite difficult to get any real flow in the game and it was quite scrappy. There was a lot of little niggly fouls that I thought the referee could have maybe played on.
“Second half I was pleased with the change in intensity as I asked them to be a little bit more positive on the front foot and more aggressive.
“Liam Craig was off the pitch and he is the one who usually takes penalties.
“It is just one of those things. Ali was confident and it’s disappointing because they are massive things in games and it could have turned things our way.”
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