Motherwell travel north to face Ross County tomorrow night in an important Premiership clash – the first of two league matches this week.
And after the Steelmen lost 2-0 to Rangers in a hard fought match at Fir Park on Saturday afternoon, the players and coaching staff will all be keen to get back in to action tomorrow.
It will be the third clash between the two sides this season following the 1-1 draw back in September and the dominant 4-1 victory in late October.
But the match will come with added importance for both sides due to the fact that a mere two points separates the teams in the Premiership table.
County, in seventh, will be hungry to find their first win of the season over the Fir Parkers, who occupy tenth.
And after a dramatic match with Kilmarnock, when a last minute winner from Sean Longstaff snatched all three points for Killie, the Northerners will also be keen to bounce back too.
‘Well assistant James McFadden knows it will be a difficult clash, and admitted that the players need to be ready for action tomorrow.
Speaking to the press this morning, he said: “We were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the game on Saturday but we have another game tomorrow and we have to be ready and prepared properly to get it out our system.
“In that sense it’s probably a good thing that the game is so close after the last game.”
The assistant also revealed that the club plan to appeal Scott McDonald’s red card, following the Aussie’s foul on Gers forward Kenny Miller which led to Willie Collum sending the forward for an early shower.
McFadden said: “We’re going to appeal the decision so Scotty should be available tomorrow. He didn’t go in to harm Kenny Miller, he went in to win the ball and he actually pulled out a wee bit.
“The contact happens so fast because they were so close together that we feel it was undeserved and he shouldn’t have been sent off for it.”
He added: “Scotty is a big player for us, and if we look at the way we started the game on Saturday we started the game well and we had a couple of chances that funnily enough Scott should have taken.
“We feel that the team is better off with him in it but first and foremost we don’t believe it was a red card.”
[pullquote]We were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the game on Saturday but we have another game tomorrow and we have to be ready and prepared properly to get it out our system.[/pullquote]
Mark McGhee and James McFadden will of course have new signings Elliott Frear, Zak Jules and Russell Griffiths available for selection from a squad which McGhee hailed as the strongest he’s had this season after Saturday’s match.
And on the new boys who arrived last week, McFadden said: “Elliott Frear trained on Friday then came on in a difficult game under difficult circumstances.
Russell and Zak trained yesterday and I got a little bit of a look at them then, they look good so time will tell because it’s difficult to tell so far cause it’s only been a short period of time that we’ve had them.
“We’re not bringing these boys in to carry them along – we’ve brought them in to challenge the boys that are here just now.”
He added: “We’re always looking to improve and if the boys coming in can improve us we’ll definitely play them.”
Looking at tomorrow’s opponents, McFadden said: “It’ll be tough, we know what Ross County are like and they’re similar every week so we know what we’re up against.”
The Fir Parkers will be without Ross MacLean, who has an injured shoulder, and Kieran Kennedy who is struggling for fitness.
Ross County will have a full strength squad to pick from, as manager Jim McIntyre looks to follow up from the weekend’s disappointment.
New signing Elliott Frear believes he’s up to the challenge of playing in the Premiership after getting a brief taste at the weekend.
After arriving from Forest Green Rovers last week, the winger was introduced to the action at Fir Park on Saturday.
Despite admitting the pace was something he hasn’t experienced yet, the 26-year-old insisted he was up to the challenge.
Speaking to the press this morning, Frear said: “It was a good experience and the pace of the game was a lot different from what I’m used to.
“Hopefully I can get a few weeks of training under my belt because I feel like I’m a little bit behind in terms of sharpness because I haven’t had a game in about three weeks now so I just want to get a few training sessions in me then I’ll be ready to go.”
He added: “I’m ready to step up to the challenge and I just think if I have a few more days of training to get up to speed I’ll be good to go.”
Louis Moult, Richard Tait and Craig Clay are just a few of the players who have made the jump from the English National League to the top flight of Scottish football, and the Englishman admitted he was encouraged by the success of both current and past stars who have come to Lanarkshire.
Elliott said: “The players that have come up from National League level have gone on to do really well, so that was a big part of the decision I made to come up here.
“I was interested in moving up to Scotland anyway, it seems like a nice place to be and while it’s a bit of a change I’m looking forward to it up here.”
He added: “I played with Louis Moult at England C level and I’ve obviously played against Marvin Johnson when he was at Kidderminster.
“Those players went on to do really well here of course and seeing that was part of the reason I made the decision to come up here.”
The close-knit spirit of the squad is something Elliott has found encouraging so far, and he admits he feels extremely welcome already.
[pullquote]I’m ready to step up to the challenge and I just think if I have a few more days of training to get up to speed I’ll be good to go.[/pullquote]
He said: “I want to get in with the group and start feeling more comfortable around the lads – the more I do that the better I’ll become I think.
“I nearly joined in the summer so I was always keeping an eye on the results and how the team were getting on. I watched the Aberdeen and Rangers games and I got an idea how the team set up and it was hugely encouraging and something I wanted to be a part of.”
He added: “I lived in Cheltenham when the potential move came about on deadline day in the summer, so it was a bit tough to get up to Glasgow in four hours and obviously Marvin Johnson’s move was a bit touch and go at that stage so it was all a bit too late.
“I’m a little bit different to Marvin – I’m a winger who likes to cross the ball really and I may be a bit of a replacement but I’m a different style.”
Ross County enjoyed a solid start to the 2016/17 season after winning two of their opening four games.
Results have become mixed since that encouraging start, but under manager Jim McIntyre, the Staggies find themselves level on points with sixth placed Partick Thistle and are just one spot off the top six.
Currently sitting on 23 points and three spots ahead of the Steelmen, the northerners will be hungry to follow up on last season’s terrific top six finish.
It makes for an interesting encounter tomorrow night, with both sides sharing the same aspirations of a top-half spot meaning there is added emphasis on the outcome up north.
When McGhee’s men travelled north to Dingwall in the fifth game of the Ladbrokes Premiership season, the two sides couldn’t be separated as Louis Moult cancelled out Liam Boyce’s opener.
That was followed up by a terrific performance from the Steelmen when McIntyre’s men came to Fir Park, with a resounding 4-1 victory the perfect response for Motherwell after a disappointing 3-0 loss earlier that week.
Before the season started, it was a big summer for the Staggies who looked to follow up on their brilliant season, highlighted by their League Cup triumph against Hibs at Hampden back in March.
Almost inevitably, star midfielder Jackson Irvine was snapped up by Championship side Burton Albion early in the window after impressing greatly for Ross County during his two-season stint.
Tim Chow was signed by Jim McIntyre and looked likely fill the void left by Irvine but was hit by injury after his arrival late in the summer window. Since then, the Englishman has recovered and has become a regular starter for the Staggies.
Right-back Erik Cikos signed on a free oin summer from Slovan Bratislava but departed in the January window after failing to impress.
The main threat the Steelmen face isn’t any of the new signings, but Northern Irish striker Liam Boyce, who opened the scoring earlier in the season in the 1-1 draw at the Global Energy Stadium and is currently the leagues joint top scorer.
At just 25-years of age, keeping hold of Boyce was a shrewd bit of business from the Staggies over the summer, after the forward scored 15 goals and provided 7 assists in the Premiership last season.
If he keeps going at this rate, he’ll improve on that tally significantly, making him an obvious threat to the Steelmen tomorrow night.
Ross County have not struggled for goals this term, but at the back, the club have found themselves leaking goals and have the second worst defence in the division.
The January arrivals of Jim O’Brien and Milan Lalkovic will further boost tomorrow’s opposition.
With the two sides playing out for an important three points tomorrow night at the Global Energy Stadium ahead of two important games at the weekend, it will be a massive game for both the Steelmen and the Staggies.