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Ross County boss laments the missing ingredient ahead of crucial encounter against Kilmarnock

John Hughes.
John Hughes.

Ross County boss John Hughes would wish for nothing more than a packed Victoria Park cheering on his side in today’s crunch encounter against Kilmarnock.

Monday will mark a year since the last game in Dingwall with a full crowd.

More than 6,400 fans watched Ryan Kent score a late winner for the Staggies against Rangers in the club’s final match before Scottish football was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.

County were one of the few clubs able to host pilot matches with 300 fans earlier this season but, with Scotland still in lockdown, there will be no supporters present in this afternoon’s meeting.

With so much at stake for both sides embroiled in the relegation dogfight, Hughes would love to have a sizeable home support roaring his team on.

A pilot event for fans took place during the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Celtic at the Global Energy Stadium, on September 12, 2020.

He said: “It is a hindrance.

“In the horrendous year we have I really take my hat off to the footballers, especially up here at Ross County who are away from their families.

“We aren’t seeing our loved ones but that is nothing because we are still doing something we love.

“But you see people who have lost loved ones in football and you need to put it into perspective.

“Football is nothing without the supporters.

“There is something missing. Some clubs have handled it better than others.

“In a relegation battle against Kilmarnock on Saturday with it all to play for I want my fans in here for home advantage but it isn’t going to happen.

“We just need to deal with it and motivate yourself.

“You shouldn’t need supporters to motivate you, you shouldn’t even hear them. You should have that total focus like a sprinter.

“Do your job and be the match-winner by coming up with a bit of genius to win the match.”

‘One step forward, one step back’

County have struggled to build momentum in recent weeks with victories at Hamilton and at home to Celtic followed by defeats against Dundee United and St Mirren respectively.

With only eight games remaining, County sit only a point above bottom two Kilmarnock and Hamilton and Hughes knows a victory would be a big step towards safety.

He said: “We just need to keep believing. I think we’ve improved enough to get the results we need.

“It is frustrating – one step forward, one step back. Can we get those back-to-back wins?

“But from here until the end of the season, we’re in a right good place to go and achieve our objective.

“We’re in a relegation battle and we have to embrace it and laugh in the face of that adversity. That’s your motivation: ‘I’ll show you’.

“I think I have the characters in the players at this club to do that. I’m seeing it every day.

“We’ll be alright. We’ve enough in our locker to achieve our objective.”

John Hughes (left) and Tommy Wright speaking before a match between Caley Thistle and St Johnstone in 2015.

He added: “Killie are in a false position when you see the quality and experience they have in their squad.

“I’m sure Tommy Wright will get them galvanised.

“It’s a cracker on Saturday, it’s a game we are looking forward to.

“I tell the players to just enjoy it, embrace it and trust the process.”

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