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Andy Skinner: Can Ross County make a big statement in Edinburgh?

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Ross County can make a real statement of intent in the capital this weekend.

The Staggies have the chance to leapfrog Hearts into third-place with a victory at Tynecastle on Saturday, in what is set up to be a cracking encounter.

The outcome will not be season-defining, but following on from Friday’s 2-0 victory against Aberdeen, the Staggies have plenty to build upon.

At the end of the first round of Premiership fixtures, County are sitting pretty in fourth. While the start has been pleasing, manager Jim McIntyre would point out instances where his side should have taken more from games: a two-goal lead against Dundee was relinquished in last month’s 3-3 draw at Dens Park, while a stoppage-time equaliser denied the Highlanders a 1-0 win at Motherwell.

County’s points haul of 18 has already been impressive, but ask anyone in the Staggies camp to reflect on the opening 11 games and they will say it could easily have been more. That is a sign of how far the Dingwall side has come.

Andrew Davies joined Ross County from Bradford City in the summer.
Andrew Davies joined Ross County from Bradford City in the summer.

Captain Andrew Davies this week claimed his sights are on securing a position within the top three this season. Call it bold if you like, but County will show they are deadly serious about making strides into the upper reaches of the league if they take three points north from Edinburgh with them.

The danger, of course, is defeat to the Jambos which would leave County five points behind their opponents. But there is no reason for McIntyre’s men to fear Hearts, even though the Gorgie outfit triumphed 2-1 in the previous meeting at Victoria Park in August.

That was at a time when Robbie Neilson’s side was riding the crest of the wave that catapulted them back to the top-flight at the first time of asking, following relegation the previous season. They did it in emphatic style, winning the Championship by the hefty margin of 20 points, and initially that form followed them into the Premiership, winning their first five league games on the bounce.

Since a 3-2 defeat against Hamilton Accies towards the end of August though, the Jambos’ form has dipped, with Sunday’s scrappy 1-0 victory against bottom-placed Dundee United ending a run of five league matches without a victory.

County have picked up 14 points from a possible 21 since they last met Hearts, who have taken eight from the same number available. The Staggies have also demonstrated stubborn resistance on the road. Their only defeat in five away games came on the opening day against league leaders Celtic, albeit they have also won only once on their travels, when they defeated Kilmarnock 4-0 in August.

While Hearts remain a formidable and potentially dangerous opponent, County have earned the right to fancy themselves against anybody in the league on their day. Following their success against the Dons, a good result at Tynecastle would do wonders for their confidence ahead of Tuesday’s League Cup quarter-final against rivals Caley Thistle, where the Staggies will be determined to avenge for their Highland derby defeat earlier this month.

Inverness suffered a setback on Saturday when they went down 2-0 against Kilmarnock, to end an impressive six-match unbeaten run they racked up before the international break. Nevertheless, they still sit just short of the top-six, and this weekend they will look to return to winning ways against a St Johnstone side who are a point above them in seventh.

Form can be deceiving ahead of derbies – many had County down as favourites prior to the recent 2-1 defeat against Caley Jags – but both sides can jump a place in the league by winning this weekend to set themselves up for a shot at reaching a semi-final.

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