Some wrote them off as relegation fodder but, after an unbeaten start to the season, Ross County will make life difficult for Dundee United tomorrow.
With two wins and a draw from their opening three Premiership fixtures, they head into the Dingwall clash – against a United side adjusting nicely to top-flight football – full of confidence.
Under the sole guidance of Stuart Kettlewell, after former co-boss Steven Ferguson’s move to the boardroom, County are looking like a well-oiled machine at both ends of the park.
A hard-fought 2-2 draw with Killie in the Highlands on Wednesday night following narrow 1-0 wins over Motherwell and Hamilton sees them riding high in third spot.
After losing a host of key men over the summer, including Marcus Fraser and Richard Foster, County have remodelled their shape, style of play and have an entirely new back four.
Against the ’Well and Accies, they lined up in a 4-3-3 with strikers Ross Stewart, Billy Mckay and Lee Erwin leading the line.
Iain Vigurs is an influential presence in the middle of the park, with former Hearts kid Harry Paton also impressing in the early fixtures.
At the back, Coll Donaldson and goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw are familiar faces, but Connor Randall, Alex Iacovitti and youngster Josh Reid have had to settle quickly into Kettlewell’s new passing system.
Expect County to try to build from the back and work through the phases, using big striker Stewart as a focal point at times.
Against Killie, County approached things a little differently.
Out went Mckay and Erwin, with Stewart leading the line supported by the pace and width of Michael Gardyne and Josh Mullin in a 4-2-3-1.
The wide men were standouts – Mullin’s delivery was dangerous and Gardyne’s dynamism is a real threat.
If they start in Dingwall, they will make it a tough day at the office for the Terrors’ defensive line as they look to feed proven goal-getters Stewart and Mckay.
The Staggies also possess terrific steel in the middle of the park in the form of Ross Draper. He, Donaldson and Stewart are also huge aerial threats.
Expect set-pieces to still be a big part of how this revamped County side operate.
With a new defence, there’s always going to be teething problems.
Despite keeping clean sheets against Motherwell and Hamilton, County conceded a penalty against the Steelmen and two sloppy goals in their draw with Killie.
They look susceptible to leaving exploitable spaces between the lines, particularly the corridor between centre-half and full-back.
The pace and running power United possess in attack, with the likes of Louis Appere and Luke Bolton, should be able to get some joy in those areas.
It should also be said, County have rode their luck a little in the opening matches. So far they have won two penalties, converted by Stewart, with the ’Well failing to steer home a spot kick of their own.
That kind of good fortune doesn’t last forever and, as bizarre as it sounds, could give United – due a little luck – hope the tide will turn.
One particularly curious thing about this Ross County side is their general approach so far this season.
There has been a clear mentality shift from containment to ‘attack is the best form of defence’.
With two clean sheets from three matches, it seems to be working and, let’s face it, they needed to try something different this term.
Last season, the Staggies conceded a league-high 60 goals in 30 games, with only St Mirren and St Johnstone scoring less times.
Going on the front foot seems to be benefitting how County in all columns on the league table thus far.
Holding on to hitman Stewart this summer will be hugely important for Ross County’s aspirations this season.
Notching 11 goals in each of the last two terms, the former St Mirren striker has proven he can hit double figures at this level.
With two already, albeit both from the penalty spot, he is well on the way to doing so again.
However, the rangy target man is much more than just goals. His hold up play is excellent and, for a man of his size, possesses neat footwork – Peter Crouch-esque in fact.
Stewart is the focal point for County, bringing others into play and making his side tick.
He will ruffle some feathers in the Tangerines backline and is always the player the Staggies look to when the chips are down.
He should be a marked man.