Adams: Hearts will miss Stevenson
Ross County manager Derek Adams knows just how much Hearts will miss suspended Ryan Stevenson when they visit Dingwall on Scottish Premiership duty on Saturday - because he has tried to sign the player on several occasions.
The 29-year-old forward was red carded in last week's 3-3 draw with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, after an altercation with Saints keeper Alan Mannus, and will serve a two-match ban which is another blow to the administration-hit Gorgie club, who are enduring a miserable season.
The Tynecastle side are rooted to the bottom of the table, 21 points behind Partick Thistle and heading towards relegation.
However, while Adams admits Jambos manager Gary Locke will be without one of his best and most experienced players for the trip north, the Staggies boss, whose side are unbeaten since the turn of the year with three wins and a draw, insists the Tynecastle men showed last week - and sporadically through the season - that they are capable of taking on the best on their day.
He said: "They have got good quality within the squad. They have beaten Aberdeen twice this season, that shows you what they can do.
"They are obviously going to miss Ryan Stevenson, a player I have tried to sign a few times in my time at Ross County.
"But they have got a great attitude within their squad and they have got a desire.
"They showed that last week against St Johnstone. To be 3-1 down and finish 3-3, they have shown that they are fearless and that's what you get with young players.
"They are in a difficult situation, it has not been an easy situation for them, but we want to keep the unbeaten run we have had in January."
Ross midfielder Stuart Kettlewell serves the second of his three-match ban.
Defender Steven Saunders remains on the sidelines with a hamstring injury while right-back Mihael Kovacevic left the club on Wednesday.
Hearts could be without Jamie Hamill (hamstring) as well as Stevenson.
Midfielder Scott Robinson returns from a ban while broken-foot sufferers Jamie Walker and Jason Holt remain on the sidelines.
Hearts boss Locke could be forgiven for casting an envious glance towards Adams in the opposing dugout on Saturday.
While Locke continues to be constrained by a transfer embargo, Adams has transformed his team during a busy transfer window.
All six of County's January signings started against Dundee United last weekend and helped the Dingwall side to a 3-0 victory which took their points tally for 2014 to 10 from four games, just one fewer than his team managed in the first 18 matches of the season.
That return has seen them stretch their lead over Scottish Premiership bottom club Hearts to 22 points as Locke's team remain one point off wiping out their penalty for going into administration.
Locke's only hope of bringing a player in during January rest on the outcome of negotiations with Swansea over teenager Adam King and any subsequent application to the Scottish Professional Football League to sign a replacement. Rudi Skacel is continuing to train with his former club.
Hearts lost 2-1 in Dingwall in December despite leading with three minutes left and he knows they face a tougher task in their latest trip to the Highlands.
"It will be even more difficult because Derek has been very shrewd in the transfer window and brought in six or seven players who have made a massive difference to them," Locke said.
"That's credit to him. Obviously they didn't have a great first half of the season and he has looked at their squad and the positions he needs to strengthen and it looks like the players he has brought in have made a massive difference."