Ian McShane believes Hearts will feel the heat in the race for European places – if Ross County can pull off a victory tonight.
The Tynecastle club enjoy a commanding lead over their Highland hosts with eight points and a game in hand separating the teams in third and fourth position.
Clearly, a win either way could go a long way to determining prospects for the remainder of the campaign.
Midfielder McShane, one of County’s most impressive recent performers, certainly wasn’t shying away from the significance of the tussle.
The 23-year-old summer signing from Queen of the South said: “It’s a massive game.
“We’re eight points behind them so we want to close the gap a wee bit so we can then try to maybe catch them.
“It’s the team directly above us so it’s a massive game. If we can get the win it would put a bit of pressure on them for third spot.
“We want to be right up behind them. With it being a home game, it is doubly important. We want to win all our home games.
“So there is no denying it is going to be a massive game – and one we’re desperate to take the three points from.
“We’re trying to cement a top-six place and then, once we’re there, we can push on and see how far we can get.”
County’s strength has been evident in their results, particularly their home form, this season but Hearts remain problematic opponents.
As well as losing both meetings this season, manager Jim McIntyre’s two previous encounters with Hearts last season ended in defeat.
McShane, though, believes there has been little between the sides.
He stressed: “I played in the first game up here in Dingwall and we lost two stupid goals.
“Then, I felt we were the better team through the rest of the match. We probably could have sneaked a draw.
“In the game at Tynecastle we didn’t play well. They went down to ten men and we never really created much.
“We’re all looking forward to it. It’s a good period for us, with games coming thick and fast. You’d rather be playing games than just training, so it’s good for the boys who are fighting for their place in the team.
“We’re looking to kick on again tonight.”