ROSS COUNTY boss Derek Adams insisted today that he expects Hearts to be challenging at the top of the table come the end of the season.
The Edinburgh side travel north for tomorrow’s SPL clash with County in Dingwall on the back of a frustrating Boxing Day defeat by Kilmarnock.
Hearts have struggled to find their form in front of goal for much of the season and, as a result, sit ninth in the SPL.
However, because of the tightness of the SPL this season, the Tynecastle side, who were on an impressive burst of form prior to their Rugby Park defeat, are only eight points off second place.
Adams, whose side sit four points behind Hearts, has little doubt that John McGlynn’s men will silence their critics in the coming months and start motoring up the table.
Adams said: “We know that Hearts are just coming off the back of a defeat to Kilmarnock, but, by all accounts, they played well and probably deserved to have taken something from the game.
“They maybe haven’t scored as many goals as they would have liked, but we won’t be reading anything into that.
“They are a good team with a lot of talented individuals and a lot of experience throughout their side.
“They are one of the teams that you would have expected to have been up at the top end of the table and, to be honest, I think that they will be come the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, McGlynn will have something of a defensive crisis to contend with for next month’s SPL trip to Celtic, with captain and centre-back Marius Zaliukas joining right-back Ryan McGowan in being suspended for the Parkhead clash. Zaliukas went through the disciplinary points threshold when he was booked at Rugby Park, while McGowan was already set for a ban after collecting his sixth caution of the campaign against Dundee United on Sunday. The suspension of the key duo for the January 19 clash leaves Kevin McHattie and Andy Webster as the only recognised defenders, although midfielder Darren Barr would appear to be a ready-made replacement for Zaliukas at centre-back, while Jamie Hamill could be back from his long-term
injury lay-off to step in for Ryan McGowan at right-back if he wins his fitness battle.