Ross County striker hails Staggies’ mental strength – and insists tension among Hearts fans aided historic win

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Ross County striker Alex Schalk has praised the Staggies’ mental resilience for ensuring that they are now looking up the table instead of over their shoulder.

The Dutchman scored the only goal of the game in Wednesday’s victory at Hearts to hand Jim McIntyre’s side their first Premiership victory in six matches.

County had been feeling the pressure prior to kick-off after Hamilton’s shock win at Aberdeen 24 hours earlier intensified the battle at the bottom but the Highland outfit are now only five points adrift of the top six and as many points clear of basement outfit Inverness.

Schalk, whose match-winning performance was all the more impressive given that he only returned from his homeland on Tuesday after attending his grandad’s funeral, is hoping the Tynecastle win can be the launch pad for a strong finish to the campaign.

He said: “We were on a bad run and it was really important for us, there was a lot of pressure on us with the Hamilton victory on Tuesday and I think we did brilliantly.

“It’s a great feeling to get three points again and hopefully we can go on a good run.

“We’ve got a good group of boys that have a good mentality, we stick together when it’s going against us.

“We were unlucky the last couple weeks with the results, we played a really good game on Saturday against Aberdeen.

“We’ve had deflected goals, last minute goals against us. It shows our mentality to bounce back every time and finally we have three points.

“We’ve got the ability to finish in the top six, there’s no doubt about that but then again, you need to show your capabilities.

“If you’re on a bad run, the confidence gets low but that happens to every team. This is a really good step forward for us and the next five, six games are all against teams that are competing for the top six.”

County’s win added to Hearts head coach Ian Cathro’s woes as the Edinburgh outfit were condemned to a third straight defeat.

And Schalk insists the tension in the stands at Tynecastle helped County record a historic first win in Gorgie.

He added: “I noticed it in the first half already, wee bits of negative sounds from the stands.

“Their results in the last couple of weeks weren’t that good either.

“I think we took advantage of that but it’s easy to say that afterwards. We managed the game really well after we scored so I’m delighted.

“It’s an amazing ground with great fans but you kind of sense it and try to use it against them.”

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