Ross County may still sit bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership table, but the Staggies gave their supporters reason to believe on Saturday.
The Dingwall outfit racked up a well-deserved 4-1 victory at Dens Park, consigning Dundee to their heaviest home league defeat in 16 games.
While it’s still just three points, a closer look at the Staggies and their bottom-half rivals suggests they can rise above the relegation battle. Here’s why…
Dens win the latest strong attacking display
Despite losses in their two previous games, County certainly didn’t disgrace themselves in either. A 2-1 home loss to Rangers was followed by a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Aberdeen.
While their backline needs to tighten up, the Staggies have had few problems up front of late. In fact, they’ve scored two or more goals in four of their last nine games.
Alex Schalk is really finding his groove at a crucial stake of the season. The Dutchman has scored four times in their last two games, and his displays could well raise those around him.
With three of their next five games coming against sides in the bottom five, they look likely to continue racking up the goals. And their defence will likely have an easier time than they did against the Gers or the Dons.
Coyle’s record shows he can turn it around
The Staggies pulled off something of a coup earlier in the campaign, with the appointment of Owen Coyle. And the 51-year-old’s experience and track record could prove pivotal in dragging County away from the drop zone.
Back in 2009-10, he came in mid-season at relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers. In the end, the Trotters finished 14th, winning five of their last 12 games.
That’s far from his only success in management. In four seasons as a manager in Scotland – with Falkirk and St Johnstone -, none of his sides have ever finished below third place.
Add in the fact he turned Burnley from Championship also-rans into a Premier League side, and it’s clear that Coyle knows how to get the best out of a team. Especially so when it comes crunch time.
Sides above them struggling for wins
This season’s battle to beat the drop could go right down to the wire – with five sides realistic candidates for bottom spot and the relegation-play off. And none look like dragging themselves away right now.
St Johnstone are six points above the Staggies in seventh place, but have lost four games on the trot. Meanwhile, Hamilton Academical have suffered three successive defeats, and Dundee were seen off by Kilmarnock on Tuesday night.
The Staggies host Accies and 10th-placed Partick Thistle before the split. And with County boasting a good home record against both, their survival hopes are well-and-truly intact.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing