JOHN Hughes opted for a spot of laughter therapy with his Inverness Caledonian Thistle players after Saturday’s horror show against Partick.
The Inverness manager might easily have torn into the troops and hammered them hard in training after what was undoubtedly their worst display of the season.
But Hughes felt a little bit of fun and games in among the serious stuff was the best response for the team still sitting in second in the table as they sought to pick up the pieces at their Fort George training base.
Partick’s thumping 4-0 victory might have panicked the manager but he is ready to write it off as a forgiveable blip in a very promising campaign – just as long as the players bounce back to their best away to St Johnstone on Saturday.
Hughes stressed: “The most important thing we were conscious of coming in on Monday was getting straight back on the bike.
“So I wanted plenty of smiles, plenty of laughter, plenty enjoyment – and that was the case in training.
“The training was designed for that, although it was competitive. Let’s forget it and move on.
“After Saturday, there has to be a realism. You wake up on Sunday and we’re still second in the league. We have to be doing something right.
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“Expectations are a dangerous thing but, if you had said to me at the start of the season that come Christmas time we’d be second in the league, I’d have bitten your hand off.”
Likewise, Hughes is not about to be trigger-happy in changing his team for the Perth trip tomorrow given the impressive consistency shown across the broader campaign to date.
The former Hibs and Falkirk boss acknowledges that players on the bench and fringes – such as Aaron Doran, Nick Ross and Danny Devine – have a strong case for inclusion.
But he warned: “They deserve a chance, that’s for sure, but you have to be very careful how you do it.
“Too many changes and you might create problems.
“The training this week was all set up for match-day scenarios, specifically to see who could do what and who was giving us the real vibe for this Saturday.
“Every one of them, once again, was at it. You don’t have to tell these boys much. Even after the Partick defeat, I didn’t say too much to them.
“We all have aspirations to go and do one better than last year and if we want to do that we need to get back to winning ways on Saturday.
“We’re honest [with each other] in the dressing room. We’re not going to win every game from now until the end of the season.
“There will be times in games we go a goal down, but we have to react better than we did on Saturday. That wasn’t acceptable, especially losing four goals and losing our shape a wee bit. These things will rear their head again and it’s all down to character and who wants to lead from the front.
“They take responsibility every day. They’re a great bunch. They need to step up to the plate and get us back winning.”
Hughes has made it through the bulk of the season with only one significant injury – to captain Richie Foran.
He acknowledges that has played a big part in success so far, stressing: “The most important thing is keeping everyone injury-free.
“We have to weigh up all the pros and cons. I’ve said many times it’s the consistency of selection that has played a big part in taking us where we are now. So you have to watch what you’re doing in terms of changing the team. Before you know it, you can be chopping and changing all over the place. Let’s not react too hastily. It’s still positive. Let’s put it down to a blip.
“We might go down to St Johnstone on Saturday and get beaten or we might go down there, play well and win it.
“But, no matter what happens, there’s a way to get beaten and a way to win. We have to make sure we’re at it and play to the standards we’ve set at this club.”
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