MOTHERWELL fans were somewhat spoiled last season as they reached two cup finals, but they better have cherished those memories. The closest manager Stephen Robinson will get to the national stadium this year is if he is cited again by the compliance officer.

The Premiership side were bundled out of the Scottish Cup at the first hurdle by Championship leaders Ross County, and in truth, you would have thought it was the visitors to Fir Park who were the ones from the higher level.

A second-half double from Brian Graham gave the Staggies a win that was thoroughly deserved as they outfought and outplayed a woeful Motherwell outfit. Gone was the fight and the battle that became the hallmark of Robinson’s team’s success last term, and Jake Hastie’s late consolation flattered them against a County side who were far hungrier, far more cohesive, and simply far better on the day.

Motherwell boss Robinson is attempting to alter the style of play that became his side’s hallmark for something a little easier on the eye, and there was a sense of anticipation in the air to see what new signings Gboly Ariyibi and in particular, Ross McCormack could bring to the Steelmen. What the home crowd witnessed though was a mish-mash of those philosophies that ended up neither one thing or the other.

“We’re trying to do things a little bit differently and we’ve brought players in that will hopefully be able to implement that as we go on,” said Robinson afterwards.

“But you could have put Ronaldo and Messi up front, and if the service into them isn’t good enough and people don’t take responsibility to get on the ball, then it’s difficult.

“It’s up to me to get that combination right and we didn’t today, so I’ll take the blame.

“We took massive steps last year, I’m a victim of my own success and the club’s success. Expectations have gone way above and beyond what they should be."

County started much the sharper, with Michael Gardyne in particular posing problems for the Motherwell backline. Apart from a couple of sighters that went harmlessly wide or over at either end, there was very little to get excited about in the opening 45.

The home fans were dealt a blow with the news that McCormack had to go off at the interval, with Curtis Main coming on for the ring-rusty attacker.

Things almost got worse for the Fir Park faithful as soon as the second period got underway, as Jamie Lindsay broke into the area only for goalkeeper Mark Gillespie to make himself big and block the effort away.

He made an even better stop moments later as Declan McManus tried to slide a side-foot effort into the bottom corner, getting down low to his left to tip wide.

Motherwell failed to heed the warning though, and County deservedly took the lead as McManus whipped a cross into the area and Graham rose highest to nod home.

The same combination saw County double their advantage on the hour, but in highly controversial circumstances. The Motherwell players and fans were screaming for a foul for a clear bodycheck in the middle of the park, but the visitors played on and McManus drove at Charles Dunne on the right before firing low across goal for Graham to slide home.

The County striker almost had a hat-trick as he took advantage of more slack Motherwell defending to pick up a loose ball and hammer off the bar from close range.

There was a belated reaction from Motherwell at least as youngster Jake Hastie headed home at the back post after a good stand-up by Elliott Frear, but it was all far too little too late after a dreadful display.

“We're delighted,' said County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell. 'Today proved a point of what we're about and is a confidence booster for the next part of the season. We want to win every game and that's the message that is clear as can be to the players.”