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Adams wary that the League Cup is still half-full for Hearts

Imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, even if you cannot quite pull it off.

Derek Adams has previously offered contracts to two of Hearts' first-team squad only for his advances to be rebuffed as the terms promised did not match up to those available at Tynecastle. It is a tale which has given Derek Adams little pleasure in reliving but it allows the Ross County manager to explain just how highly he rates Danny Wilson and Ryan Stevenson.

The latter will not feature in Dingwall this afternoon either, with the Hearts midfielder serving a ban. His side have still to overcome fully the 15-point penalty handed down for going into administration, too, although a win in the Highlands would allow the Edinburgh side to move on to a positive points tally for the first time, even if the campaign itself has not been a positive one.

It is now a certainty that Hearts will suffer relegation and that Wilson could captain the side in the SPFL Championship next season. The defender might have been looking up towards the top six instead, had Adams been able to lure him north in the summer.

"They have good experience in Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill and Danny Wilson - a player I tried to sign in the summer. We couldn't match what Hearts could offer," said Adams.

"Ryan will be a big miss for them too - another player I've tried to sign - but they have the League Cup semi-final coming up and the players who face us will want to make sure they play in that occasion."

There is plenty of incentive for this County team too, the club having turned their form around to face up to a belated assault on the top six. That has been brought about by a change in personnel since Adams has signed six new players this month, with Filip Kiss' arrival on loan from Cardiff City perhaps the most compelling.

"The manager has brought in some real quality and it has kicked on the ones here," acknowledged Richard Brittain, the County midfielder.

Meanwhile, Gary Oliver knows who to go to as he endeavours to ignite his form in the top flight this season. The striker is one of a host of youngsters who have graduated from the club's youth system this term and the 18-year-old hopes that he can become a prominent member of the team by tapping into the experience of his uncle - former Hearts director of football, Jim Duffy.

"He gives me a few tips and has come and watched me a few times," said Oliver, who has still to score for Hearts this season. "Obviously he was a defender and I'm a striker, so he tells me what he thinks I was doing right and doing wrong, which is good.

"It's a big help to be able to call him for advice - what I'd done that might have been most difficult for defenders to deal with, that sort of thing."

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