McKay (9, 43, 48), Keillor-Dunn (57), Graham (90+1 pen)
Morton went down to a heavy defeat in the Highlands today as Billy McKay helped himself to a hat-trick in Ladbrokes Championship league leaders Ross County’s 5-0 win at the Global Energy Stadium.
The Northern Ireland international opened the scoring after nine minutes with an expertly executed finish before profiting from poor defending to add two more either side of the interval and complete his treble.
Davis Keillor-Dunn danced through the Ton defence to add a fourth on 57 minutes before substitute Brian Graham capped a miserable afternoon in a bitterly cold Dingwall by converting an injury-time penalty.
What made the outcome somewhat surprising was the fact Johansson’s side had not only picked up a creditable point in the Highlands a few weeks early by drawing with Inverness Caley but also won on their last outing.
Ton had recorded a morale-boosting win against Falkirk at Cappielow seven days earlier, and the Greenock gaffer kept faith with the same 11 by naming an unchanged side for the match against Staggies.
But the defence that kept their first cleansheet in eight matches by shutting out the Bairns was breached within nine minutes of kick off.
Young Englishman Keillor-Dunn split the back four down the inside left with a reverse pass to pick out the run of McKay, who then opened out his body and curled a precise shot around Ryan Scully and inside the right post.
County were in command from then on, with the visitors struggling to make much headway in the face of a Staggies juggernaut driven by the likes of Iain Vigurs, Don Cowie, and former Ton loan man Jamie Lindsay.
Making up a sturdy backbone was Ross Draper, the midfielder filling in at centre-half for the day due to injuries, and he came close to doubling their advantage with a thumping header from a Josh Mullin corner on 28 minutes.
Gary Oliver did offer some hope just before the half-four mark when he weaved in off the left onto his right and drilled in a low shot that forced goalkeeper Scott Fox to scramble down his right to smother.
Just when it looked like the Sinclair Street side would get in at the break without suffering any further damage, allowing them to consolidate and regroup for a renewed effort after the break, they conceded a crucial second.
Taking advantage of a failure to clear inside the box on 43 minutes, Cowie rolled across the face of goal from tight to the right bye-line to present McKay with the simplest of tap-ins for his double.
Manager Johansson sent on super sub Bob McHugh in place of Charlie Telfer at half-time in an attempt to turn the tide, but they were soon left requiring a miraculous turnaround to take anything from the game.
Ross County, and McKay, added a third just three minutes after the restart, lashing home from close range after Scully had palmed down Mullin’s attempted chip at the end of a flowing counter-attack.
Johansson later described his team’s defending as criminal, adding that he feared they would concede every time County came forward – and the fourth goal was emblematic of this.
Picking up possession on the right of the Ton box, Keillor-Dunn effortlessly worked space inside the box with some tidy footwork before bending a left-footed shot past Scully, beating the keeper at his right despite a touch.
Less than an hour had elapsed, and Staggies co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell decided to make changes, introducing two former Morton men in strikers Graham and Declan McManus.
The pair were involved in putting the tin lid on proceedings in stoppage time when the latter fell over a Lee Kilday tackle and the former stroked the resultant spot-kick into the bottom-right corner.
2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 5. Waddell 25. McKeown
12. Tidser 8. McAlister (c) 7. Millar
6. Telfer 18. Oliver 19. MacLean
Subs used: 11. McHugh (for Telfer, 46), 14. Tumilty (for MacLean, 59), and 3. Iredale (for Millar, 71).
Subs not used: 15. Thomson, 32. R. Lyon, 37. McGrattan, 1. Gaston (gk).
Booked: Telfer (45), McKeown (72).
Ross County (4231): Fox; Stelios, Draper, Watson, Kelly; Vigurs (Graham, 52), Lindsay; Mullin, Cowie (c) (Gallagher, 82), Keillor-Dunn; McKay (McManus, 60).
Subs not used: Fraser, Munro, Dingwall, Grivosti, Munro (gk).
Referee: Steven Reid
Attendance: 3,481 (126 away fans)
⭐️ Star Man: Michael Tidser
Image: Jonathan Mitchell