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Ross County manager John Hughes urges players to keep cool in the heat of relegation battle

Ross County manager John Hughes.
Ross County manager John Hughes.

Ross County manager John Hughes believes keeping cool in the heat of battle is key to his club winning one of their most important games of the season today.

Victory at Rugby Park will move the Staggies four points clear of second-bottom Kilmarnock with four games remaining, while defeat will result in County slipping back into the relegation mire.

The stakes are high for this one and Hughes knows it, but he wants his players to stay focused.

He said: “Keep cool, it’s only a game of football. Have ice in your veins, be cool and that will help you be at your best.

“We have boys who are ready to go, they’re up for it and it’s about us giving them the best chance to win the game.

“We have Billy Mckay and Oli Shaw as well, they are both goalscorers, so they will have to worry about us too.

“It might be a bit of genius on the day or it might be a mistake – hopefully genius from us wins us the game.

“It’s fine margins, you have to embrace it and get after it.”

County have beaten Celtic, Hibernian and Aberdeen this season and Hughes has urged his side to look at some of the key results they have achieved this season for inspiration ahead of their crucial Rugby Park encounter.

Oli Shaw celebrates the opening goal during the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Aberdeen – one of the Staggies’ big results this term.

He said: “I think we have good character at our club, I think we have got what it takes to get out of this.

“We have had good results against teams this season, but we have not had the consistency. So they have done part of it, now we have to go and try to get over that line.

“I wish I could go Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday to get right into it. I trust my boys, we know we’re not the best team in the world, but there’s an honesty about them.”

For the Staggies, the trip to Kilmarnock was always going to be a key fixture given the two clubs are rivals in the fight for survival, but Hughes is looking for a reaction from his players following their poor display in the Scottish Cup loss to Caley Thistle last week.

He said: “We have to get last Friday out of our system, it’s been a case of resting up, have the weekend off to recharge and be ready to go again.

“We have to address being so vulnerable for five or 10 minutes after scoring a goal. We have to eradicate that from our performances.

“We are battling away, we were bottom of the league when we came in, but we have got off there now.

“So it’s about having the courage to pick up the results we need to stay out of those two positions.”

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