MICHAEL Higdon has been a prominent figure for Motherwell this season but the burly striker found himself being repeatedly asked about another outstanding number yesterday.
It is one which has proven harder to ignore since the Fir Park side slipped away from the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League; Motherwell have won only once at home this season, and not since September.
That halcyon day came against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and is a result which supporters will hope acts as a portent given that another Highland club will alight in Lanarkshire this afternoon. Ross County have enjoyed a commendable campaign thus far – they have even won twice at home – but their trip to Fir Park comes at a time when the hosts are growing in confidence having gone four league matches without defeat.
Higdon described that encouraging run more crudely – "We will give a team a good doing out there," he said – but it is not the Englishman's skills as an orator which his side will rely on against County. Still, his bullishness is indicative of a buoyant mood within the Fir Park squad which has not been punctured by their somewhat uninspiring home form. "We haven't been playing so well in terms of results at home but hopefully we can turn it around [against County]," said Higdon. "It is a tight pitch and sometimes it is hard to break teams down. The first goal is key in every game."
It is perhaps typical that a striker should view a contest in such a way but Motherwell can also expect to feel more comfortable at the back this week after defenders Shaun Hutchinson and Simon Ramsden recovered from hamstring and calf injuries respectively. Hutchinson's return could prove more injurious to the prospect of his impressive English colleague remaining at the club beyond the end of the season, of course, but Stuart McCall has at least hinted at his own willingness to extend his contract.
"If I'm happy in my work, I get on with it, but I'm still ambitious. I want to do well at Motherwell," said the manager. "Hopefully, and I'm sure they will, the club will have the same ambition."
Given that County have only just walked through the door at the Premier League they are not yet at the point of looking to match the ambitions of other clubs, but the Dingwall side have found incentive in the success of another. Inverness have risen to third place – three points behind leaders Celtic – and County have noted the speed at which that has been achieved after their neighbours embarked on a run of positive results.
"If you go on a wee run like Caley Thistle have been on you can make great ground," said Richard Brittain, the County midfielder. "They have shot up the league and rightly so. They have been doing really well. We have to use them as an example – there is a lot of football to be played over the coming weeks and a lot of points to be played for. Hopefully, we can win our fair share of them."