Ross County defender Liam Fontaine says the Staggies must be prepared to show their battling qualities and win ugly when they return to Premiership action later this month.
County broke for the winter shutdown in eighth place – although just three points separate them from Hamilton Accies in the relegation play-off position.
The Dingwall men return from their three-week break when they make the trip to face Championship side Ayr United in the Scottish Cup on January 18, before playing their first league match of 2020 at home to the Premiership’s bottom side Hearts four days later.
With 18 matches of the campaign still remaining, Staggies vice-captain Fontaine feels his side must be ready to scrap for results against the other teams competing for top-flight survival.
He said: “A lot of people talk about the beautiful game and techniques, but for me it’s the fighting side of it, the aggression side of it and doing the running that should just be your standard mindset anyway.
“We have won games against some of the better teams from the league positions but it’s the games at the other end of the table that are the more important ones. That’s just a plain and simple fact.
“We need to learn from the results against a couple of those teams of how to win those games. That’s by doing the horrible part of football.
“It’s up to us to learn from a couple of our slip-ups against the teams around us of how we nullify that and then become a superior team.”
County have the worst defensive record in the league having conceded 42 goals this term but their tally of 22 goals scored is more than any other team in the bottom half.
Fontaine has been impressed with County’s attacking intent but feels the Staggies must earn the right to play.
The 34-year-old added: “When we get the ball down and play, we’re a good team to watch, but when we can put that other side to it as well we’ll be a really strong team to play against.
“We have shown that at times in the league so far but we need to do it on a more regular basis.
“The higher the level you go, people wonder why the top teams are the top teams, but they are there because they do every single part of the game really well.
“When you’re not the top team, and you’re a team who is battling all the time, you have to try and get as many players as you can performing to those levels and doing that horrible side to the game.
“We all know we’ve got good footballers and match-winners but it’s that other side of the game that gets you the result.”
County have been linked with a loan move for Rangers winger Glenn Middleton, who recently returned to Ibrox following a spell with Hibernian.
The 20-year-old is also a reported target for St Mirren and NAC Breda.
The Staggies are also understood to be looking at a pre-contract move for Inverness Caley Thistle’s Coll Donaldson.