Alex Schalk hits hat-trick as Ross County stroll to victory over Partick Thistle
An Alex Schalk inspired performance lifted Ross County off the foot of the table after a resounding 4-0 win over relegation rivals Partick Thistle.
The Dutchman hit a hat-trick and set up Ross Draper’s headed goal to send Thistle back down the A9 rooted to the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership on goal difference.
County drew level on points with their opponents and moved 11 goals better off in the race to avoid automatic relegation.
Schalk opened the scoring with a low right-footer from outside the area before Draper made it two from a corner.
The Dutch striker made it 3-0 with a tidy finish under Ryan Scully in the second half before rounding off his man-of-the-match performance with a tap in to secure the Staggies’ first home win in nine attempts.
Both sides had their problems in defence heading into this bottom-of-the-table clash with County captain Andrew Davies and Thistle’s Danny Devine missing due to red cards at the weekend.
Despite a frantic start to the match with wind and rain causing havoc, Thistle started the brightest and could have been ahead inside the first six minutes.
Miles Storey’s header hit the post from a corner before Scott Fox turned Conor Sammon’s rebound past the post.
With the rain continuing to batter the Global Energy Stadium, it was County who got the breakthrough on the 35-minute mark.
Schalk picked up the ball 20 yards out and found the back of the net with a low shot that caught out Scully.
Schalk turned provider minutes later as County netted a second from a corner.
Scully came to collect the corner but the ball evaded the keeper and found the head of Draper who steered it into the empty net to make it 2-0 to the Staggies at the break.
Alan Archibald rang the changes at half-time with Chris Erskine and Blair Spittal replacing Storey and Ryan Edwards.
Schalk thought he had given County their third after his shot from inside the area found its way past Scully but the goal was ruled out for offiside.
It was three on 56 minutes after Schalk found himself one on one with Scully and tucked it under the keeper to put the game beyond all doubt.
Thistle almost got one back through a long-range effort by Spittal but a great save by former Jags keeper Fox kept the deficit at three.
Schalk claimed his hat-trick on 70 minutes after Marcus Fraser’s shot was well saved by Scully. The ball fell to the striker who tapped home the rebound to mount the misery on Thistle.