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Midfielder Blair Spittal sets sights on European football after winning top-six chase for Ross County

Ross County's Blair Spittal (left) in action against Hearts.
Ross County's Blair Spittal (left) in action against Hearts.

Blair Spittal insists Ross County won’t settle for top six in the Scottish Premiership as they seek to become history-makers by qualifying for Europe this season.

The Staggies stunned Aberdeen 1-0 two weeks ago to break into the top half of the table in the last day before the split and they kick off their final five matches at home to Celtic on Sunday.

The Dingwall club have had plenty of deserved plaudits for going from 10 winless matches at the start of the campaign to being one of the best half dozen sides in the country.

They are in fifth spot, level with Motherwell and only one point behind Dundee United.

With third-placed Hearts reaching next month’s Scottish Cup final against Rangers, fifth spot in the league opens up a place in Europa Conference League qualifying.

County, in current form of just one loss in six matches, are confident of being one of the sides to qualify for Europe, which would be a first for the Staggies.

Sole Staggies’ focus is on Euro spots

Midfielder Spittal is clearly ready to go all out to try and make a memorable season even more special.

He said: “Everyone is looking forward to the Celtic game after having a wee break. It allowed us a chance to digest what we have achieved so far.

“We know it’s not over yet. We have a big game on Sunday and we’re looking to finish the season as strongly as possible.

Ross County manager Malky Mackay.

“Finishing top six is massive. Over the past couple of seasons, the league is getting a lot tighter. In the last round of games, it was a free-for-all as to who would make the top six.

“We knew how important it was going into it and we didn’t want to be in the bottom six to avoid the scrap to avoid the bottom two places.

“We have given ourselves an opportunity to get this club into Europe and that’s what we’re focused on.

“With Hearts beating Hibs in the Scottish Cup semi-final, we know five places will earn you a European place. It is a dog fight between ourselves, Motherwell and Dundee United for two of those spots and we will be going all out for it.”

Spittal confident of getting result

And the former Partick Thistle and Dundee United ace doesn’t buy into anything collected against Celtic or Rangers being bonus points.

He senses the chance to add to their tally against Ange Postecoglou’s pace-setters, who are six points clear of Rangers.

The 26-year-old said: “People will look at the European qualification as coming down to the results between Dundee United, Motherwell and Ross County.

“We’re not looking at it like that. We see every game as an opportunity to go out and win.

“That’s down to the confidence that is running through the club right now. We feel we can take points off the top teams.

“This is a good pressure to have. You would much rather be in this position than going into the dog fight of the bottom six.

“You have to thrive in these sorts of environments where we aim to take the club somewhere it has never been before. We want to test ourselves against the best players in the country.”

Strong home form inspires County

Celtic lost their first domestic game since September when Rangers edged them out 2-1 in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.

Spittal is determined to use their home advantage to the best of their ability after losing 4-0 at Parkhead last month as they seek to stretch their own unbeaten home run to 12 games.

He added: “Celtic create multiple problems for you. We struggled against them at Parkhead. When they are on form, no one can stop them, no matter how you play.

“Up here in December, we gave them a really good game. We made it difficult for them.

“Our pitch is a lot smaller than Celtic Park. We have to make it as small as possible and as uncomfortable as possible for them.

“We will have a game plan to also hurt Celtic by creating problems ourselves.”

Contracts talks on hold until summer

Spittal is clearly settled riding high for the Staggies and he said the talks over his own future will kick off when the campaign is over.

He said: “I enjoy working under the manager and the club is in good shape. At the end of the season, we will sit down and see what is best for everyone.

“There has been a bit of positive talks, so we will see what happens.”

Spread of goals is great for Spittal

Being one of the main creators in the County side, Spittal has relished seeing his team-mates finish chances off in opponents’ boxes.

While Premiership top scorer Regan Charles-Cook leads the way with 13 goals, he insists everyone is playing their parts in the goal stakes.

Regan Charles-Cook is the Premiership’s leading scorer with 13 league goals.

He said: “Cookie has been terrific with the amount of goals he’s scored, but there has been a good spread of goals throughout the team.

“It’s not just Cookie – they are coming from different areas of the park. As the season has progressed, we have also been threats at set-plays. The boys coming up from the back have created problems for everyone.”

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