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Hibernian are stronger than they were earlier in season, says Ross County co-manager Kettlewell

By Andrew Henderson

Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell expects a different challenge from Hibernian tonight compared to earlier in the campaign.

The Staggies have not lost to Hibs this season, with County coming back to claim a 2–2 draw at Easter Road in October, before picking up all three points when Jack Ross took his side up to Dingwall in December.

Richard Foster keeps track of Hibernian's Martin Boyle in the 2–1 win for Ross County in December. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Richard Foster keeps track of Hibernian's Martin Boyle in the 2–1 win for Ross County in December. Picture: Ken Macpherson

But Kettlewell has sent out a word of warning to anyone assuming a repeat will happen, saying changes to the playing staff and more time under Ross makes the Hibees a bigger threat.

“We see the strengths of Hibs being in their attacking play," Kettlewell explained.

"They have dynamic players from the middle of the pitch to the forward line. They have guys who could put the ball inn the back of the net, good creativity – and we know we’ll have to counter that.

“But we’ve been down there earlier in the season and scored a couple of goals, and we earned a victory up here.

“They’ve made one or two changes and freshened it up in midfield and at the top end of the pitch with the likes of Mark McNulty and Stephen McGinn coming in, who have probably made them a stronger team.

“When we played them initially under Jack Ross, it was those early stages of trying to transition between managers. We’ll see what version we get. They look as if they’re playing a slightly different way now.

"We have to adapt our approach accordingly. Speaking about it is one thing – we have to make sure we act it out and deliver on the night.”

Last week County picked up an important three points against Livingston, winning 2–0 thanks to a double from Billy Mckay.

That match saw Kettlewell and co-manager Steven Ferguson deploy a slightly different tactic, playing with three centre backs and wing backs in the impressive Marcus Fraser and Sean Kelly.

Ferguson was keen to play down the significance of the switch after the victory, and Kettlewell says it was all about shoring the side up at the back.

“Whatever the system, if you’re given that task to do – whatever the shape and formation – if you can conquer it individually in your battles, you’ve a chance of winning the game of football," he elaborated.

“We’ve won games in different formations this season, so I don’t buy too much into it.

“We felt we were conceding too many goals and we were trying to redress the balance, and see if there was a formula to get us a clean sheet on the night.

“That proved to be the case on the night, but in the Premiership you’re always up against really good forward players and guys who are clever in the middle area of the pitch.

“There will be chances for us, so it is up to us to make sure we’re not being punished by moments of slackness or for switching off in games – conceding from corners, free-kicks – all the bits that are very avoidable.

“We want to ensure that, if we are conceding, it is down to individual brilliance, not us being the architects of our own downfall.”

Ross Stewart is back in training for the Staggies but is unlikely to be ready for tonight's match, while Michael Gardyne and Tom Grivosti are long-term absentees.

There has also been a bug going about the Global Energy Stadium, with a couple of unspecified players missing days of training, but it remains to be seen if that will have an impact on squad selection.

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