Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell is confident interest in Ross Stewart from Aberdeen will not distract the forward from restoring his form over the festive period.
The Dons are lining up a pre-contract move for Stewart in January, with Pittodrie manager Derek McInnes a long-term admirer of the 24-year-old.
Stewart finished last season as County’s joint leading scorer with 11 goals in 26 appearances but has struggled to find the net from open play this season, with all but one of his six goals coming from the penalty spot.
It's Ross Stewart for @RossCounty! 🔵
Celtic give away a penalty and the visitors take full advantage 👀 pic.twitter.com/H3eDqtZPKO
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) November 29, 2020
County face a busy spell of six games in 18 days starting with tomorrow’s Betfred Cup quarter-final at Livingston, and Kettlewell has backed Stewart to improve his tally in the coming weeks.
Kettlewell said: “There are reports on Ross Stewart but it is purely speculation.
“Knowing the guy and working with him every day it won’t throw Ross off track.
“We want him to be scoring in open play and he desperate to find the net but again he is a victim of his own success.
“He has done well and the standout game was Celtic and how he led the line there.
“I understand there is going to be speculation on his future but fundamentally we have to look at what he is doing a daily basis and trying to get him to hit the net again.
“We’ve got a busy spell up until January and there is plenty of time for him to go and showcase what he does and what he is good at and that is seeing him hit the net.”
Injury problems have limited Kettlewell’s options in recent weeks, with defenders Alex Iacovitti (dead leg) and Connor Randall (back spasm) both forced off during the first half in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
Both players will be assessed ahead of the midweek trip to Almondvale, along with of Oli Shaw, Carl Tremarco, Ross Draper and Keith Watson who missed the match.
Having already brought defender Jason Naismith back to Victoria Park, Kettlewell is considering making further additions in January to boost his options.
He added: “We have to look at our ability to field players and who we can get on the pitch.
“There is no doubt about that and form is another thing but seeing another two players come off in the first half on Saturday then I certainly need to look at that factor.
“It would be naive of us, as a football club, to say we are giving ourselves the best chance with the options we have to choose from.
“That is no disrespect to the guys who are on the pitch but every manager will tell you we would like as many options as we possibly can get.
“Over the last couple of months I’ve been nowhere near that full squad and I need to try and get that reliability back to see if we can get some decent competition in different areas of the pitch.
“We are looking to improve all areas in January. Jason Naismith coming in gives us a real good quality player. If other options come up then we will definitely look at them.”
County have suffered losses to Rangers and Aberdeen since defeating Celtic in the previous round of the Betfred Cup, with the Staggies dropping to bottom of the Premiership.
Kettlewell hopes tomorrow’s match against Livi can spark a revival in form, adding: “I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for themselves, especially in-house.
“Everyone can see how things are going for us and we just need that stroke of luck.
“It is only us who can create that and we have to get ourselves up again and to look forward to a cup quarter final.
“We can see if that is the thing that can swing momentum our way.”