County midfielder Ross is reaping benefits of strict fitness regime

Ross County's Ross Draper refused to be downbeat after defeat.

Ross County midfielder Ross Draper is working overtime in his attempts to make the grade at the Staggies.

Englishman Draper made the move from Highland rivals Caley Thistle in the summer after spending five years with Inverness.

Having been relegated to the Championship with Caley Jags last season, Draper was initially taken aback by the level of fitness required at Dingwall but the 29-year-old now feels up to speed.

Draper said: “I knew from the start I’d have to really fight for my place.

“You only have to look at the squad, which is fantastic in talent and depth as well, with 18 to 20 players of real quality and young boys also coming through.

“No one is guaranteed a place. My fitness was below par. I was quite surprised by the intensity of it when I came here.

“I knew from day one I had to get fitter and the training, every day, and the extra facilities we have here have been brilliant towards getting me up to the mark. I feel like it is now benefiting me on the park on a Saturday. I feel a lot fitter – the fittest I’ve been in a very long time. I’m getting up and down the park, rather than just sitting as I have done in recent years.

“It has taken a lot to get there but I feel good. I’m really feeling the benefits.”

Draper was signed by Jim McIntyre, who was sacked and replaced by Owen Coyle in September.

Draper has been impressed by the impact made by former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers manager Coyle, who has won three of his opening six matches to move to within a point of a top-six position.

Draper added: “It isn’t nice to lose a manager as we did with Jim McIntyre.

“Jim was brilliant in bringing me in. I’m grateful to him and always will be but that’s football. Managers go and new ones come in.

“The manager has been brilliant, speaking to everyone about getting their chance. He’s always fair and speaks to you when he drops you.

“He pulls you in before every game and tells you who is playing and who isn’t. There’s respect there. It’s brilliant he does that.

“I didn’t play against Hamilton because we went two up front and he spoke to me before the game and told me why he was pulling me out. Rather than going away and beating yourself up on a Friday, wondering why you’re out or feeling a wee bit angry, you know what you’ve got to do to get back in.

“He’s been in the game long enough to know what he needs to do to manage players and has been brilliant with that. Training has been good and results have picked up as well. We’ve taken 10 points from 21, playing some big sides, and even then you could argue we could have been unbeaten. It has just been those small margins.

“There are lots of positives.”