SCORN has been poured on Caley Thistle manager Richie Foran’s “mind game” manoeuvres in the Premiership relegation and top six scrap.
Preparing for tomorrow’s high-stakes Highland derby showdown, Ross County striker Craig Curran, rejected Foran’s claim that the greatest pressure was weighing on teams just above bottom-of-the-table Inverness.
Foran’s men have shown strong signs of recovery in the last four games, with a draw at Tynecastle, home victory over Rangers and a valuable point away to Partick Thistle, punctuated only by the 4-0 hammering from Celtic.
Alarmingly for the Dingwall faithful, County have just one win – and six defeats – from their last eight league and cup outings.
The Staggies are yet to win at home in the league in 2017, with the last Global Energy Stadium victory coming against their great foes in the Highland derby on Hogmanay.
But they will make the short trip across the Kessock Bridge at the weekend in bullish mood, having already beaten Foran’s side twice this season and losing only once in the last six trips to Inverness.
The Caley Thistle boss suggested the only way was up for his side, while stating that others were now looking over their shoulders anxiously.
But Curran disagreed, saying: “I think the pressure is the same for everyone. There are six or seven teams in the mix.
“There is always pressure in football, whether it’s to stay up, to make the top six or to win the league.
“It’s a pressured environment we operate in, so that won’t be playing on our minds at all.
“Everyone wants to look upwards, regardless of where they are sitting in the table. You’re always looking to better yourself, better your results and your position, regardless of whether you’re last, middle or second.
“When you’re top you want to keep pushing, staying higher than everyone else, so we are all looking at it that way.
“Come Saturday we are only looking at getting points and climbing higher.”
Curran, approaching full fitness and form in recent matches after a long battle with the aftermath of concussion, insists County are agonisingly close to reversing poor results.
Reflecting on Saturday’s home defeat to Kilmarnock, where County dominated for lengthy spells but committed fatal defensive errors, the Liverpudlian said: “Anyone watching the game would, like us, have been sitting there scratching their heads.
“But it’s gone – there is no point in dwelling on it. We’re going to make sure we turn up in Inverness on Saturday with the same attitude and performance. If we do, I’m sure it will turn into three points.
“If you look at the last three home defeats, we should have won – not just drawn – all those games. We have to cut out those mistakes.
“We’ve got too many strong characters in the dressing room to dwell on those defeats. We are determined to put it right.
“Everyone knows what a good a squad we’ve got. We shouldn’t be in the position we are, but we have to accept it and change it quickly.
“We are underachieving as a group but we are working really hard to put it right. The lads are hurting and we’re all hurting – from the bottom to the top. But if we go and put three points on the table on Saturday we are looking at kicking on again.
“The performance levels are there, the work rate and attitude is there and the fight is there. But we’ve got to start putting games to bed.”
Curran dismissed the significance of the positive past record at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, adding: “Without wanting to sound clichéd, every game is massive now, whether it’s Inverness, Celtic or Hamilton Accies.
“The derby does add an extra bit of spice for the fans, but we will be treating all the games the same.
“Caley Thistle have some good players and they are a good side. They won’t be taking it lightly, and neither will we.
“We know how tough a game it’s going to be and it’s at their place, so we will have to be right at it, which we will be.
“We’ve just got to turn up with the same attitude and hunger. If we show the quality we have, we’ll be fine.”