JOHN HUGHES is determined to ensure Ross County’s players believe they can kick-start their recovery against Celtic.
After the dust settles in Dingwall tonight, the bottom of the table Staggies will have nine matches remaining in which to secure Premiership safety. Only one of those games, the rearranged fixture against Hibs, is against a top four side, with the rest distinctly winnable from a County perspective.
Hughes, though, wants the fightback to begin this evening. He said: “People talk about this being a free hit for us, but let’s flip the coin and imagine we beat Celtic. “What would that do for us and where would it take us? “That’s the incentive. We can’t just say it is Glasgow Celtic so we roll over and get our bellies tickled. We need to give it a right good go.
“But we’re under no illusions. We’re playing against a top side that has found their mojo.
“They dominate the ball so much. We can set up to have a go, but we understand there will be long periods where we’ll be on the back foot. When we do see the ball, hopefully we can go and create something. My job is to focus on my team and what we can do, how I can help my boys to stand up against Celtic and give them that belief.
“I’d like to think the boys have taken a real belief from beating Celtic 2-0 at Parkhead in the League Cup before I came here.
“Hopefully, come Sunday night, we have that little bit of luck – and the result stays in Dingwall.”
When Hughes took the County reins in late November he encountered a team shedding goals cheaply and struggling to score. The strike rate has improved, but he admitted: “We need clean sheets. I was looking at goals conceded since I’ve come in here and we’ve lost 18.
“I don’t mind losing a proper football goal. As a coach, sometimes you’ll applaud that. “But the goals we’ve been losing have been self-inflicted. We need to be better, as a team. It all starts from the front. We need to be more aggressive in our pressing and our defending from the front, and show a better desire to try and keep the ball in the opposition half.
“We seem to have started scoring now, so we need to keep the ball out of the back of the net. In saying that, it’s very difficult when you’re playing a team like Celtic. Every one of the players has to be at their best.”
Hughes has a fully fit squad apart from young defender Tom Grivosti, out for season after a hamstring operation and right-back Connor Randall (back problem) Captain Iain Vigurs is suspended.