Jim O’Brien is convinced Ross County’s controversy-packed draw with Celtic can give them the edge on Highland derby D-Day.
The former Motherwell, Barnsley and Coventry City midfielder, pictured, believes the furore over Alex Schalk’s “dive” against the champions detracted attention from a superb County performance in which they offered powerful resistance to Brendan Rodgers’ side.
With Caley Thistle visiting tonight and both teams desperate for survival points, O’Brien is certain the display has only elevated the Staggies’ belief and confidence.
A win would place them 11 points above their great rivals in the relegation fight with four games to play. Defeat would leave them vulnerable, particularly to a dive into the play-off spot.
O’Brien, though, emphasised County’s buoyant mood after the Celtic clash.
The 29-year-old said: “The confidence we can take from the last game against Celtic is immense. Everybody is on it in training and our tails are up a little bit.
“Caley Thistle are fighting for their lives and it should make for a good viewing.
“We’re confident at the minute and getting beat is not really in our thoughts with the way we’ve played [against Celtic], as well as in the game before that.
“Maybe with the [Schalk penalty] decision, our luck has changed a little bit. That stole all the headlines which can sometimes be harsh on the team because we did play really well.
“I watched the game back myself. If you’re watching it back as a Celtic fan or a neutral then, sure, you’re thinking Ross County are getting hammered. But really, we did limit their chances and we know they’ve got great quality. It was a really good, strong team performance. Everybody was in it together and that’s what it’s going to take to see this season over the line. Then we can look forward to next season.”
O’Brien is new to the Highland derby and brings an element of cool detachment that he feels could be crucial on the day. That is not to say he isn’t looking forward to the occasion. He said: “It’s a game we all look forward to and it’s good for the supporters. Derbies are always good. They can always be a bit heated and a bit edgy, maybe.
“But I don’t really pay much attention to what is being said going into the match. I’ll catch the odd thing on the radio, but it’s not something I focus on.”