INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle made their way into the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history last night and forced Rangers to face up to some harsh realities in the process.
While the Highland side were jubilant after overcoming their Third Division hosts with a comfortable 3-0 victory, Rangers said the performance and result prove that they still have a lot of rebuilding to do before they can again compete on a regular basis with the top teams in the country.
“The first goal was always going to be important but, that said, in the second half, we were disappointing,” said dejected Rangers manager Ally McCoist. “Individual errors cost us the three goals and that’s extremely disappointing. This was our opportunity to compete with an SPL club again but we were miles short of the intensity we showed [in the previous round] against Motherwell.
“We have still got a long, long, long way to go and tonight showed that.
“It was a bit of a reality check,” agreed Lee McCulloch, who had signed a two-year extension to his contract earlier in the day. “This shows how far we have to go to get back to where we were and it will need a lot of hard work to get there.”
McCulloch conceded that not only had Inverness been the better team, they had simply wanted the win more.
Their manager, Terry Butcher, was delighted with that attitude and the way his team had gone about proving their superiority, although the reality of a semi-final showdown against either Celtic, Hearts or St Mirren was proving hard to digest.
“We are delighted to be there but it hasn’t really sunk in,” said the elated Inverness boss, who had celebrated with the band of travelling supporters after the final whistle. “To come here and play that way…We played some good stuff.
“The players were fired up and I thought it was an excellent performance.
“We always believe we can score and when Andrew Shinnie scored I thought, ‘here we go again’. We had to weather a bit of a Rangers storm but once we got the second goal, we were able to pick Rangers off.”