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John Hughes retains belief in Ross County's "courage and character"

John Hughes retains belief in Ross County's
© Reuters
County boss John Hughes backed his side to handle the pressure of the dogfight.

John Hughes is confident his Ross County players have the "courage and character" to embrace their relegation run-in.

The Scottish Premiership survival battle steps up a gear this weekend when the post-split fixtures begin with County travelling to Kilmarnock.

Only three points separate the bottom three, with County just above the drop zone, Hamilton at the foot of the table and Killie in between.

Hughes said: "At this time of the season it's all to play for and there is a trepidation and anxiety, and it will be in every team.

"Kilmarnock are at home and I think all the pressure will be on Kilmarnock. When you are at home, everyone expects you to win.

"But it's how you handle it and it's all down to courage and character. I think I've got good courage and character at our club. We just have to make sure we don't fluff our lines.

"It's about not being afraid of the situation, embracing it and having the mindset to say 'I fancy a bit of this'. And I think I have got that in my dressing room."

Both sides have in-form Northern Ireland international strikers in their midst.

Billy McKay has netted five goals in his last six games for County, including a double in a 3-2 win over Kilmarnock, while recent Rugby Park signing Kyle Lafferty has hit six goals in three matches and also scored a brace in the same game.

On Lafferty, Hughes said: "You have to respect what he's doing, he's doing a fantastic job. We have to make sure we stand up to that challenge.

"That's what I am saying, that comes down to character. My players need to want to stand up to that challenge and get up for it.

"If we can get hold of the ball, they will not have it to put crosses into the box. When they have got it, we have to be resolute. And when we have got it, we have to go and express ourselves.

"They have got Kyle Lafferty, we have got Billy McKay, who scored two goals against them. No matter how the game is going, when you have a goalscorer in your team, or Oli Shaw, you always have a chance of nicking something. They will have to worry about us as well."

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