TONIGHT’s league game at home to Hibernian could be coming at just the right time for Inverness, according to Nick Ross.
The Caley Thistle player explained that he and his team-mates had initially been unhappy at the rescheduling of the Hibs match, in which the Highlands club could secure a top-six finish. But now, after conceding five goals in each of their last two matches, they believe that an outing now could be a vital part of their build-up to Sunday’s League Cup final against Aberdeen.
“At first we were not happy we were playing so close to the final,” said Ross, who scored a crucial stoppage-time goal against Hearts in the League Cup semi-final. “But now after the last two games we want to get back to winning ways before the final.
“The last two games have been unacceptable from our point of view – letting in ten goals in two games is never good. We want to bounce back as soon as possible.”
Tonight’s match will be the first time Hibs boss Terry Butcher has faced his old club since leaving for Easter Road, and Ross will always be thankful to the former England captain for the support he gave his career. “I owe him a lot as he gave me my first game – when I was 17, against Montrose in the Challenge Cup – and played me a couple of times in the First Division.
“We got up to the SPL and he played me in almost every single game. I owe him a lot for what he did in the early stages of my career and it will be good to see him and Maurice [Malpas] again. He’ll have Hibs fired up for the game anyway.
“I hope he’ll be going away unhappy – if he is, we’ll want to avoid him as he can get angry at times. I have seen a few rages in my time, but it’s all to get his point across.”
Some Caley Thistle supporters, perhaps above all those who were most disappointed by Butcher’s departure, may feel that the Englishman is now regretting heading south for a club that is struggling to make it into the upper half of the table. But Ross accepts that his old boss has taken a step upwards, and is confident he will transform Hibs’ fortunes once he has had a chance to make new signings.
“Hibs are a bigger club and, when you look at their training ground, you see the difference between ours and theirs is incredible, really. He must have looked at that and thought: ‘I’m on to something good here.’
“It’s still early days for him there. When he first came to us we got relegated and after that he picked us up. I think it will be the same with Hibs – he’ll take time to get his players in and he’ll be all right.”
The obvious concern for Caley Thistle this evening is that they fail to block out thoughts of Sunday. Ross, however, is hopeful that his team will devote themselves properly to beating Hibs.
“The final is always in the back of your mind, and it’s hard not to think about it as it is such a big game,” he said. “Once we get out and start warming up for the Hibs game we’ll just be fully focused on that, I think.”
Meanwhile, defender Josh Meekings is also happy to have a game four days before the final, as he is desperate to make amends for their 5-0 Scottish Cup thumping by Dundee United on Sunday.
Meekings could not prevent Nadir Ciftci running through for the opener and was involved when Ciftci tucked the ball home for the second after the defender was hit by Dean Brill’s clearance following a less-than-emphatic passback to his goalkeeper. The centre-back would rather play again than dwell on those moments.
“It has helped us to have a game on Wednesday because it gives us the opportunity to go out and express ourselves and to put things right,” said the 21-year-old. “There were defensive errors, I made one myself, so we look and learn from it and try to make sure that they don’t happen again.”