STUART KETTLEWELL is warning Dundee United that Ross County are ready to fight fire with fire tonight.

The Staggies co-manager is bemused by suggestions his team might play for a draw in Dingwall under the Friday night lights.

Victory would hoist the Highlanders eight points clear with a game in hand at the Championship summit, taking them to within touching distance of clinching a quickfire Premiership return.

Even a United win leaves the Tannadice side struggling to make up ground, two points behind with an extra game played, with three of County’s last four matches falling on home turf.

Kettlewell, well used to Championship sides attempting to stifle them at the Global Energy Stadium, knows United will be primed to attack.

Kettlewell said: “I’m expecting a tough opposition – a Dundee United team that will probably come and get at our throats.

“I think they need to realise that our intention is to do the same.

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“But we’re playing at home where we have got a tremendous record all season. We want to win the game.

“At no point this season have we come out trying to play for a draw as might be suggested. We will certainly looking to be on the front foot against Dundee United.”

Kettlewell, as a veteran of league and Scottish Cup successes with County as a player, knows the big nights in Dingwall tend to have a special atmosphere.

Kettlewell stressed: “Games like Inverness on Tuesday and this one against Dundee United, at our level, don’t come any bigger.

“I thought the fans were tremendous in Inverness on Tuesday. I thought they really got behind us at all stages of the game.

“There’s something special about nights in Dingwall under the floodlights. I can reel them all off – I have been fortunate to be part of some of them – but there is just a different feel when it’s that night-time game.

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“There’s an unbelievable energy. You’re shooting down to that Jail End and sometimes you feel there is a slight advantage.”

Kettlewell is likely to be without midfield enforcer Ross Draper after he took a knee injury against Inverness on Tuesday night and was substituted at the break.

Contrary to suggestions from the Caley Thistle camp, Kettlewell stressed Draper hadn’t been removed tactically through fears of a red card.

The County management are also nursing concerns over influential Michael Gardyne after he missed the derby with a hefty knock in last Saturday’s defeat to Alloa.