Ross County 0-0 Hibernian (4-3 on pens)

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Ross County’s Michael Gardyne scored the deciding vital penalty

Ross County beat Hibernian to claim a League Cup bonus point after a penalty shootout was needed to separate the sides after a goalless 90 minutes.

County had won their first two Group D games and Hibs had taken full points from their only other game.

But, despite some exciting play, especially in the opening half, chances came and went in the first group game to involve two Premiership sides.

Michael Gardyne fired the deciding spot kick after Oli Shaw’s was saved.

The extra point puts County, who had gone into the game seeking their fifth win in a row and 10th unbeaten following a good end to last season, in control at the top of the group.

Hibs, promoted as Championship winners last season, went into the game unbeaten in their last give games away from home.

And they gave debuts to summer signings Steven Whittaker and Danny Swanson, while Efe Ambrose was in the back line for the first time since making his move permanent from Celtic and a mix-up that led to a delayed return for pre-season training.

However, it was the starting place handed to Marvin Bartley that gave Hibs early dominance as the big Englishman shrugged off the challenges to dominate midfield.

His ball winning allowed John McGinn and Martin Boyle licence to bomb forward and continually worry the County rearguard with their thrusting runs towards the edge of the penalty box.

Danny Swanson (left) was making his competitive debut for Hibs

County were hampered by the loss to injury of forward Craig Curran after only seven minutes as Ambrose made his presence felt with a hefty challenge.

It meant that summer signing Thomas Mikkelsen made a swift return to the home line-up after Alex Shalk was handed a starting place ahead of the former Dundee United striker.

County were left reeling and goalkeeper Scott Fox, back in the side after young Aaron McCarey was given a workout against Montrose, was tested early by a couple of grass cutters from Dylan McGeouch and Simon Murray.

The home side, though, regained their composure and confidence after an Andrew Davies header that was beaten away by Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.

A Michael Gardyne drive and a Ryan Dow cross almost deflected into his own net by Lewis Stevenson followed, while the Hibs full-back and McGinn flashed shots just wide as a high-tempo first half drew to a close.

County are obviously still adapting to the summer sale of Liam Boyce, last season’s Premiership to scorer sold to Burton Albion, while it was too early for Hibs’ latest addition, Lithuania striker Deivydas Matulevicius, to have more than a spectator’s seat in the stand.

With defences tightened after the break, the game was crying out for a finisher and Hibs head coach Neil Lennon hauled off Simon Murray and sent on former County striker Brian Graham.

Yet it was a mistake from Fox, who let a deflected Boyle cross slip between his legs and just wide of the post, that came close to providing a killer moment.

Fox then denied Boyle at point-blank range and a Darren McGregor header struck the underside of the bar in stoppage time as Hibs paid the price for not finding the target before the game was decided from the penalty spot.


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