Dundee United midfielder Ian Harkes wants to increase the pressure on Ross County by coming out victorious in tonight’s top of the Championship clash in Dingwall.
The American also knows the heat is on the Tangerines because last week’s home defeat against Queen of the South means only a perfect record in the final five games will maintain their chances of automatic promotion.
United would have been top for a few days had they beaten Queens but that surprise loss and County’s midweek win over Inverness Caley Thistle in the Highland derby means they now trail the leaders by five points.
And, if that gap isn’t cut back down to two points this evening, Harkes knows their chances of overtaking them will be wafer thin at best.
“I think this is a must-win. We were talking about it and every game from now in has to be that way for us,” he said.
“We have to get as many points as we can to put the pressure on Ross County, it’s as simple as that.”
Despite Saturday’s setback, he believes wins over the Staggies the last two times the pair have met means United can head north feeling they will get the job done.
Equally, he appreciates only a strong performance will bring three points back down the A9.
“We want to go there with confidence. It is going to be tough being away from home but we have dealt with them before.
“They are going to be a strong team as always but for us it’s about trying to put pressure on them. We know what to expect from them and I think they know what we are all about. We are going to prepare properly and look to go after them in the game.
“It is one of those games that can go either way. It’s a game of mistakes or set-pieces and one where we know we have to be tuned in the whole time.”
And while he doesn’t hide his frustration over United letting slip that chance to top the division, he’s stressing the need to look ahead.
“There is a bit of that because we could have moved to the top of the table last weekend if we hadn’t lost to Queen of the South.
“But we have to make sure we keep that behind us and make sure we move on and get the job done in this one. We will focus our attention and get back to the right mindset for this one.”
With County facing an extra game, against Dunfermline next week, even the run of wins they’ve targeted may not be enough for United to catch them.
That would mean another trip to the play-offs but for Harkes that only makes it just as important he and his team-mates are playing well.
“If we are not winning the league we want to be on a good run of form and solidify second position.
“As everyone knows, it’s tough to get through those play-offs but if we are in them it’s going to be good if we are looking at four games instead of six.
“As a group we are very strong and we can get through them, if necessary. We added so many players in January and I think that has helped the roster and made us even stronger.
“I think it was great to add in everyone who came but it was already a strong squad and we are looking to push on together.”
Harkes, who was one of those who arrived just after the turn of the year, and three months into his time on this side of the Atlantic, feels he is settling in well.
“I am enjoying the new challenge and enjoying Scotland, it’s been fun.
“I’m enjoying the area and the club has been great to me. I think I’ve added a little bit to help them out.
“I have to say the weather has been cold. Dundee is a beautiful city and it’s always sunny but you don’t get that in other parts of the UK.”