Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has angrily denied his players lack the bottle for the big occasion despite their recent disappointments in the league and cup.
In late December, draws at home to Inverness Caley Thistle and Partick Thistle meant Aberdeen twice failed to take the chance to move above Celtic in the Premiership table.
Last weekend, they were knocked out of Scottish Cup at the first hurdle by Hearts. just as they had been across Edinburgh at the same stage of the League Cup by Hibs last September.
Now they travel to Dingwall tomorrow looking for a win to cut the defending champions’ lead – and McInnes is convinced they are ready and able to rise to that challenge.
“There’s no shame or embarrassment in losing to Hearts” he said. “But there is a frustration that we never brought the performance we’re capable of.
“We’re unbeaten in eight games in the league and, while we’re disappointed with last weekend’s result, we have to respond in the right way.
“There has always been a pressure on us to win games – we have been top or second in the league for the majority of the season.
“I think it’s unfair to say the players don’t handle big games. You can name big games we have won as well, so it’s a lazy thing to say.”
McInnes’ mood was not helped when Liverpool unexpectedly recalled their on-loan goalkeeper, Danny Ward, less than 24 hours after that defeat at Tynecastle.
There were certainly plenty of offers of replacements but, after an attempt to sign Cammy Bell on loan from Rangers fell through, they finally brought in Adam Collin from Rotherham United yesterday.
The 6ft 5in goalkeeper will start against Ross County, if international clearance comes through in time, ahead of Scott Brown.
Brown was first choice last season, but his contract is up at the end of the campaign and, like Danny Rogers who is on loan at Falkirk, he unlikely to be offered a new one.
That’s not the case for Collin, though, as McInnes has made it clear that, if he impresses, his stay could be longer than a few months. McInnes said: “The easy option would have been to bring Danny Rogers back, but that would have been wrong because he’s doing well.
“We wanted someone with experience and Rotherham worked with us on a good deal. Adam is out of contract.
“He’s come here with the objective to play and part of it is that we might be looking for a keeper in the summer.
“So part of the make-up of who we brought in was someone that could be an option for us in the summer”
McInnes is also interested in signing Partick Thistle midfielder Stuart Bannigan this month as both tough-tackling midfielders Ryan Jack and Willo Flood are out injured until March.
He also seems willing to let defender Paul Quinn return to Ross County during this transfer window but obviously nothing will be done about that until after the teams meet.
Meanwhile, County midfielder Stewart Murdoch claims he does not mind if the Staggies “remain under the radar”.
The Dingwall men have had a remarkable season so far after climbing up to fifth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
They also have a Scottish League Cup semi-final clash with Celtic to look forward to at the end of January and have taken their place in the last 16 of the William Hill Scottish Cup, too, after Tuesday’s fourth-round replay win over Dunfermline.
But Murdoch admits it sometimes feels like Jim McIntyre’s side do not get the recognition they deserve.
He said: “Aberdeen and Celtic obviously have bigger names than we do but, if we can keep winning games under the radar it could be a positive for us.
“If no one is paying too much attention to us then maybe folk won’t start heaping too much pressure on us either. As a group, we know we have some really good players in this squad and, if we can play with confidence, we are more than capable of competing against anybody.”