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Manager senses change of spirit in dressing room after leaving losing 'rut' behind him

Terry Butcher, the Hibernian manager, admitted he and assistant Maurice Malpas have allowed themselves to "get into a rut" during the long winless sequence that has put the club's SPFL Premiership status in jeopardy.

The Easter Road side take on Ross County in Dingwall this evening needing a victory to ensure they avoid the relegation play-off spot that awaits the side that finishes 11th. A draw against Partick Thistle on Saturday, on the back of a battling derby performance against Hearts the previous weekend, has delivered some timely and much-needed hope to the Hibs dressing room, although they remain without a win in their last 11 matches.

Butcher insists the mood in the dressing room is much more buoyant now but revealed there was a period when he and his players were simply "drifting along".

"I sensed a change in spirits a couple of weeks ago before the Hearts game, that's when it really started for me," the Englishman said. "It's not like we got the league table and put it at everybody's peg and said, 'look at this.' I think it was a realisation from everyone with what we had to do. They've maintained the standard of training and standard of play, throughout the two games it's been spot on.

"People will say, 'why was it not like that?' Sometimes you get into a rut and drift along. Maurice and I have been guilty of that sometimes as well. We knew we could get things right and start the recovering process, which I think they've done.

"You don't want to have the same feeling where you wake up on a Sunday morning, get up and think 'did I dream that we lost the game?' No, it wasn't a dream. It was like Groundhog Day, Groundhog half-time, Groundhog full-time. It was nice on Saturday that you could see the joy of the players and the fans, because the fans' reaction was immense."

Butcher admitted that he drew some comfort from some small improvements in the recent loss to Hearts. "The derby came along at the right time because you have to raise yourself for a derby and have to makes sure you compete, which we did very well," he added.

"In these situations you have to hang on to small things. Small things mean a goal against Hearts, a good comeback in the second half, we won the second half. Our foul count was twice as much against Hearts.

"It's difficult when you get excited about foul counts but it showed everybody that we competed a lot more and we were fighting and scrapping. I look at yellow cards and if one of my central defenders has only got one yellow card all season, I'm not very happy at all.

"I'm not saying get red cards but you have to compete more and commit more fouls in many aspects to be a top centre-half. You don't go to foul but you go out to compete."

Butcher hoped Hibs' lingering relegation fears could be put to bed for good this evening.

"We know there is a finality about it for us, because if we get three points we know we're safe," he said. "And it's a ground where we've got good memories, having won on our last two visits.

"We've scored here goals in the process and conceded none, so there are only good memories.

"It'll be a nice journey up, we're going up early and having a kip, we're preparing well to play the game."

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