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John Hughes urges Ross County to rise to the heat of survival battle ahead of vital Hamilton Accies encounter

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

Ross County manager John Hughes says the Staggies must be prepared to show their mettle as they look to clinch Premiership survival in their final two games of the season.

County host bottom side Hamilton Accies in a crunch fixture tonight, with a victory for the 10th-placed Staggies enough to ensure they cannot be automatically relegated.

Should a County triumph be accompanied by a Kilmarnock loss to St Mirren, the Dingwall men would also be clear of the relegation play-off spot going into their final day fixture at Motherwell on Sunday.

With County approaching the final hurdle in their survival bid, Hughes hopes the tension of the dogfight can bring out the best in his players.

Hamilton’s Reegan Minmaugh and Hakeen Odoffin (centre) battle with Ross County’s Jordan White.

Hughes said: “It takes me back to my time at Falkirk when we were fighting relegation and we beat Inverness in the last game of the season to stay in the league.

“We all know what’s at stake. Unfortunately there has to be winners and losers in football and that’s the way it’s got to be.

“Brian has got Hamilton well organised, they are hard-working and they never give up.

“What we have to do is prepare properly and let the lads do their stuff.

“We can’t underperform, there will be times we are under the cosh and we’ll have to be organised.

“But, if we have the same work ethic and quality we showed against United, I am hoping it would be enough.

“We have to embrace and look forward to it – it’s in our own hands so let’s go out and take it.

“You can’t be a shrinking violet, you have to stand up to it – and that comes from carrying over everything from the training pitch.”

Although County’s fate is in their own hands, Hughes says there will be no scope for his side to underperform given how tightly-compacted the bottom three is at present.

He added: “We have to concentrate, we know what’s at stake. It might put a wee bit more pressure on Hamilton, but it’s all about us.

“We have to reach the heights, the performance level and work level that we did against Dundee United.

“It’s no coincidence that most of the results we have had have been when we have been at our best.

“If we can do that for the remaining two games, I think we could be all right.

“The onus is on my boys, it’s not what Hamilton bring. We could still be at our best and Hamilton could beat us.

“I think if we are at our best and that was to happen, it would maybe be down to a bit of bad luck or something special.

“I don’t think there’s too much between all the teams. It’s fine margins and we just have to make sure they fall on the side of Ross County.”

Blair Spittal in action for Ross County.

Midfielder Blair Spittal could once again feature after playing a part in both goals in their 2-0 victory over Dundee United on his return to the side.

Hughes has been thrilled with the response of Spittal, who returned from a loan spell at Partick Thistle after the turn of the year.

Hughes added: “He’s technically a very good footballer.

“It was important we got him back up, got him settled in and got him playing. He’s one that has taken it on board.

“He has worked very hard and got himself in good shape. Getting into that shape has been a hard process, with one or two niggling injuries when he’s been pushing himself too hard, but he’s there.

“He’s at a stage where, in everything I’m putting in place, he’s one I can trust.

“When I’m doing my match preparation and shaping it up, he’s already reading my mind. He’s in place and ready because he’s got that experience.”

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