Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell is braced for a backlash from rivals Inverness in tonight’s Scottish Cup fifth round replay at Caledonian Stadium.
Caley Thistle went down 1-0 against Dunfermline in the Championship on Saturday, in a further blow for John Robertson’s men who were hit by a late Staggies equaliser in last weekend’s original tie at Victoria Park.
Robertson criticised his players in the wake of their loss to the Pars, claiming they lacked the same desire as they had shown in their 2-2 draw against the Staggies.
Inverness have drawn plaudits for their derby displays despite not getting the better of the Staggies in four attempts this term, and Kettlewell expects they will be determined to put that right this evening.
Kettlewell, who serves the final match of a three-game touchline ban tonight, said: “I’ve read a few bits in the press already – I think they probably feel as if they play their best football against us. I would suggest that was probably the case.
“I think the challenge is making sure you’re competitive on all fronts and challenging yourself to play well every week. I think John Robertson has maybe said as much in the press.
“It has been a tough task against Inverness in the previous four games and I don’t see the fifth one being any different.
“We chopped and changed the squad on Friday night and we’re in the position where everybody who was available to us still is.
“The task in hand was to get to the cup final and make sure, for the Scottish Cup tie, we were able to select from those who were already fit. We’re still in that position.”
Kettlewell is prepared for another tight encounter against Caley Jags, adding: “It’s that one-off cup tie. Just as we said last week, we want to go toe-to-toe with our rivals and see if we can come out on top.
“Hopefully it is half as exciting as last week’s game because I thought that was an excellent advert for the derby – undoubtedly the best of the last 16 in the Scottish Cup.
“Some were billed slightly bigger than the derby, but it was undoubtedly the best game over that weekend.”
Kettlewell insists he and fellow co-manager Steven Ferguson have been handed an attacking dilemma by the recent form of Ross Stewart, with Billy Mckay, Brian Graham and Declan McManus also vying for a place, and he added: “If yo were to profile a striker, how many boxes they tick, Ross virtually ticks them all.
“He’s quick, takes the ball in well, he’s good in the air, he’s an excellent finisher and he’s a very intelligent lad as well.
“There have been spells when he has been in and out of the team, but every time he has been asked to play he has shown the right attitude and showed the qualities we believe he has.”