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Clean sheets key in Ross County’s survival push, says John Hughes

John Hughes.
John Hughes.

Ross County manager John Hughes says the Staggies must tighten up their rearguard in order to return to winning ways in tonight’s crucial Premiership encounter against Hamilton Accies.

County make the trip to New Douglas Park for a vital fixture at the foot of the table, with bottom-placed Accies just a point behind the Staggies with two games in hand.

Since their impressive 4-1 victory over Aberdeen last month, the Staggies have lost their last two games against Rangers at Motherwell, conceding seven goals in the process.

Hughes has been frustrated by the goals conceded by his side, with four shipped from corners in the last three matches.

He feels the Dingwall side must show more resistance if they are to claim a victory which would see them stretch four points clear of tonight’s opponents, who are managed by his former assistant Brian Rice.

Hughes said: “We will always have a chance in football if we keep a clean sheet. We need to be better in terms of the goals we are giving away to give ourselves a right chance.

“I told the boys after the Motherwell match that we put so much into it, that to come away without anything must be hard.

“We have to pick ourselves up and go again. It will be like that against Hamilton. There will be times we don’t have the ball when we need to stand up to it and be resolute to keep that clean sheet.

“You will always get a chance in football, and if we get the chance and take it, and keep the clean sheet, the three points are coming back to Dingwall.”

Ross County manager John Hughes.

The Staggies have 12 games remaining in their push for top-flight survival, and Hughes says the stakes will continue to be high regardless of tonight’s outcome.

Hughes added: “From now until the end of the season, we all know the importance of the games. They are all cup finals, but I wouldn’t put the pressure of saying it’s a must-win on the boys.

“We need to make sure we take a right good performance to Hamilton. I’ve got so much respect for them, every year they seem to hang in there and stay in the Premiership.

“We are going to have to be at our best to pick up the win.”

January signing Mohamed Maouche has joined County’s training bubble, with the French midfielder having been given leave due to family circumstances in his homeland.

Mohamed Maouche.

Although the former Oldham Athletic player is short on match sharpness, Hughes feels Maouche will be a valuable addition.

He added:“ Mohamed is back. He has had to do the 10 days of self-isolation. For the first four or five days he had to train on his own.

“He’s still not allowed in the building. He’s in the bed and breakfast so he has to come in the back door, do the training, and then go out.

“That stopped on Tuesday, so we can really start working on getting him up to speed.

“We will get him in the gym and working on his strength.

“He played in the practice match on Saturday, but we don’t want to push him too hard in case of injuries.

“He’s a footballer – he can look after the ball. I can see in his eyes he has got something. We just need to get him up to speed and get him on the pitch.”

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