Ross County stay up after win over Partick Thistle in epic play-off

County won a penalty shoot-out after fighting back from 3-0 on aggregate.

Ross County remain in Premiership after dramatic  play-off win over Partick Thistle SNS Group

Ross County will remain in the SPFL Premiership after winning the play-off final against Partick Thistle in dramatic fashion.

County were 2-0 down from the first leg and needed a major comeback in Dingwall to preserve their top flight status.

The Staggies were further behind when Thistle’s Aidan Fitzpatrick score the opener but goals from Yann Dhanda, Simon Murray and George Harmon levelled the aggregate score and the tie went to penalties.

The penalty shoot-out went to sudden death before Josh Sims netted from the spot to keep County up and crush a Thistle side who had looked destined for promotion.

Thistle had travelled to Dingwall knowing that a draw would be enough to secure a return to the top flight but vowing to go searching for a win to seal promotion in style.

That looked on the cards after 43 minutes. Aidan Fitzpatrick had scored the opener in the first leg and he struck again to put Thistle ahead in the Highlands, collecting a ball from Scott Tiffoney and setting himself before drilling a shot into the bottom corner.

Thistle looked to be cruising towards promotion but a second half turnaround gave County hope.

After a lengthy VAR review, referee Nick Walsh awarded a penalty to County for handball and Yann Dhanda stepped up to thump in a powerful shot.

Seconds later, Alex Samuel worked himself into space and put in a low cross that Simon Murray tapped into the net to put County 2-1 ahead on the day and just a goal down on aggregate.

The Staggies’ momentum was checked with nine minutes to go when Keith Watson was shown a red card but another VAR check saw that downgraded to a yellow and he played on.

With the clock ticking down on County’s time at the top, they struck late. A cross from Dhanda on the right was met with a side-foot volley from George Harmon that went in off the post to level the tie on aggregate. Nine additional minutes were announced setting up a thrilling finale.

Both sides had chances in a frantic end to the regulation time, County seeing a cross come off the bar before Murray blazed a shot over, but neither could find a decisive goal and extra-time was needed.

The first half of the added 30 minutes brought plenty of attacking intent but no goals, with Murray again having the best chance when he turned and raced in on goal but a heavy touch took the ball away from him.

Thistle’s Stuart Bannigan had the best of the chances in the second half of extra time, putting the ball over the bar after being teed up by Brian Graham. No scoring in the final minutes meant the last outstanding issue of the season would be resolved by a penalty shoot-out.

After both sides missed from the spot, the shoot-out went to sudden death and Sims held his nerve when presented with his opportunity, scoring the penalty that made it 5-4 in the shoot-out and settling an epic contest.

County were in the play-off after finishing second bottom of the Premiership, taking 34 points from 38 games.

Thistle were fourth in the Championship but defeated Queen’s Park 8-3 over two legs and then Ayr United 8-0 in the semi-final before facing County.

The result finalises the make-up of the top flight for next season, with Dundee already promoted into the league as Championship winners and their city rivals United relegated after finishing 12th in the Premiership.

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