Ross County manager John Hughes has urged his side to stand tall against the threat of in-form Kyle Lafferty when they face Kilmarnock tomorrow.
The Staggies head to Rugby Park looking to open up a four-point lead on Tommy Wright’s side in the relegation dogfight at the bottom of the Premiership and Hughes knows Lafferty is the main threat.
With five goals in his last three matches, including two in the 3-2 loss to County at Victoria Park last month, Lafferty’s form has coincided with back-to-back wins for the Ayrshire side and Hughes knows the Northern Ireland international must be nullified tomorrow.
He said: “You have to respect what Lafferty is doing, he’s doing a great job for them. We have to stand up to the challenge and be up for the battle against him.
“Whoever has the task of coming up against them will know they are in a hard game.
“I have never found it easy playing against an opponent either individually and as a team, but you have to embrace it and give it your best shot.
“If we give it our best shot we won’t be too far away.”
Hughes has been analysing Lafferty and Kilmarnock’s performances and he believes ball retention will be key to County’s hopes of getting a result tomorrow.
He said: “We will have to stop the crosses into the box when they have the ball, but when we have it we’ll have to cause them problems.
“If we can keep the ball well enough they’ll not have it to put crosses into the box.”
The post-split matches will be drawn out due to the Scottish Cup also occupying fixture dates this month and, while frustrated at having to sit idle for 10 days following tomorrow’s game, Hughes insists his players are ready for one of their most important matches of the season.
He said: “I love it when you get to this stage of the season, I really enjoy it. It gets dragged out a little bit and I’m thinking ‘bring it on’.
“We just have to stick together, work hard for each other and get through it.
“There will be mistakes, there will be mistakes from every team – and it’s the ones who capitalise on them who will do best.
“It’s about character, having the mental mindset to say ‘I fancy a bit of this’ – and I think I’ve got a bit of that in my dressing room.
“If you think of the outcome it starts to affect you, think of the process and break it down 45 minutes at a time.
“Play that, see where were are and then go again. That’s the way to look at it.”