Ross County 0 Dundee United 3
Craig Conway was the hero with a double as Dundee United ended a wait of 16 years to bring the Active Nation Scottish Cup back to Tannadice.
David Goodwillie set the Clydesdale Bank Premier League side on their way to victory before Conway finally exorcised the ghosts of his missed penalty in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final two years ago.
United had won the trophy just once before today – back in 1994 – but the 3-0 win ensured Peter Houston’s men would be joining those names in the history books of the Tayside club.
Ross County’s local town of Dingwall boasted a population of just 5,000 and they somehow managed to take 20,000 to the national stadium, but it was to be a long road back to the Highlands for them as their first ever final ended in disappointment.
United’s victory was also good news for fellow SPL side Motherwell, who now have Europa League football to look forward to next season, with the winners already qualified through their league position.
Referee Dougie McDonald had a big call to make with just 11 minutes on the clock when Danny Swanson appeared to be obstructed in the box by Alex Keddie but no penalty award was forthcoming for United.
Other than the penalty claim, chances had been few and far between early on but County were looking dangerous when Iain Vigurs slipped a pass through to Andy Barrowman and his shot came off the leg of Garry Kenneth.
McDonald was prompted into action to produce the first yellow card of the game for Gary Miller for a nasty challenge on Goodwillie, allowing the Tangerines the opportunity to pile on the pressure.
Conway stepped up for the free-kick and picked out the towering figure of Kenneth at the back post but the defender nodded just over the crossbar, to the relief of County fans behind the goal.
United were threatening again from another set-piece, this time Jon Daly collected a long ball from Prince Buaben but his header was tame and easily smothered by goalkeeper Michael McGovern.
Swanson then embarked upon a surging run into the box which had the United fans on their feet only to be denied a clean shot at goal by a well-timed block from Keddie.
With half-time approaching, Andy Webster’s header from a Swanson corner smacked off the crossbar but the referee had already spotted his push on a County player and awarded a foul.
United continued where they left off after the restart and there was a tense moment for the Highlanders when Scott Morrison’s clearance flashed narrowly past the post of his own goal.
Conway was fouled by Miller and brushed himself off to take the free-kick but a full-stretch Kenneth just failed to connect on this occasion. Swanson then came close with a header that fizzed just wide.
The Tayside club’s pressure paid off when they surged into the lead after 61 minutes.
McGovern raced off his line to clear a long ball from Morgaro Gomis but the ball broke for Goodwillie and, with the goalkeeper stranded, he was able to lob into the back of the net despite the best efforts of the County defence.
The young striker whipped up his jersey revealing a t-shirt which read ’For you nana’ and was yellow-carded, as the Tangerine half of the stadium erupted.
Hopes of a County comeback were dashed when United claimed their second of the day with 15 minutes to go. Daly’s flick-on was nodded on again by Goodwillie for Conway, who raced into the box before slotting past McGovern into the back of the net.
Conway wrapped up the victory in style four minutes from the end, this time collecting a short pass from Gomis before lashing a ferocious shot beyond the County keeper from just inside the box.
The silverware topped what has been a memorable campaign for Dundee United, who lost manager Craig Levein back in December but regrouped to finish third in the SPL before triumphing in today’s Hampden showpiece.