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John Hughes insists sitting in the stand is no major problem

The Ross County boss has a touchline ban for his side's crucial games.

John Hughes insists sitting in the stand is no major problem SNS Group

Ross County manager John Hughes says his touchline ban will make no difference in an empty stadium.

Hughes has been handed a two-game punishment – with another two suspended – for backing up old friend Brian Rice after the Hamilton boss launched into a tirade against referees earlier this month.

Rice was also given an immediate two-match suspension last week for hitting out at Scottish Football Association referees chief Crawford Allan.

Now the duo will both be forced to take a seat in the stand when their teams meet in Dingwall on Wednesday for a crucial relegation crunch.

But Hughes – who will also be barred from the dugout for County’s all-important final-day showdown with Motherwell – insists the suspension will not stop him getting his message across to his players.

He said: “We were given a fair hearing – I got to say what my points were. Now you need to take it on the chin.

“In terms of sitting in the stand, I don’t think it will make that much difference with no supporters being there.

“The players can still hear you and you can still coach.

“Will it be a major disadvantage sitting in the stand? Well I don’t think it will be on Wednesday because Brian is sitting in the stand as well.

“Over all the years we were together it was always him who got me into trouble. I’ve always been trying to fight his fights.

“We just need to get on with it. There’s usually not much to do or say on a game day because all your work has been done.

“You need to respect the decision. I just wanted to make my point about the transparency of the system, that’s all.”

Hughes and Rice have a relationship stretching back 30 years to their playing days at Falkirk and also takes in their time as a coaching duo when Hughes was in charge at Falkirk, Hibernian and Inverness.

But now the pair will go head-to-head in a clash which could be decisive as both sides look to scrap clear of the drop zone.

A win for third-bottom County will ensure they cannot suffer automatic relegation – but will be a major body blow for Accies’ survival hopes, with Rice’s basement boys still two points adrift.

But Hughes insists his bond with Rice will not be affected by the grim predicament the duo find themselves in.

“No, no, I spoke to him this morning,” he said. “I’ll always be good friends with Brian.

“We’ve always had a good working relationship. I’m proud of Brian for going out alone and getting into management.

“I can only wish him all the best. It’s just unfortunate that when friends come together in football that there has to be winners and losers.

“Hamilton are a side who have defied the odds for years. They are masters at getting results and staying in the Premiership.

“But if we can put on a performance like we did against Dundee United last weekend, hopefully the three points are ours.

“As I say, unfortunately in football there are winners and losers and it’s going to have to be like that on Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll be the winners and it can be amicable.”