John Robertson demands improvement from his team after sluggish win against Cove Rangers

Aaron Doran congratules Nathan Austin after he made it 2-0 for Caley Thistle
Aaron Doran congratules Nathan Austin after he made it 2-0 for Caley Thistle

Caley Thistle manager John Robertson is demanding improvement from his side after a sluggish 2-0 win against Cove Rangers in their Betfred Cup opener.

The hosts were clear favourites heading into the game but were not clinical enough in front of goal with Nathan Austin’s first-half double sealing the points at the Caledonian Stadium.

With Cowdenbeath up tomorrow on the back of their 2-0 win against Raith Rovers, Robertson expects levels to be raised from their Saturday showing.

He said: “The first duty was to get the three points. We started sluggishly – Cove aren’t Highland League champions for nothing and if you give them a foothold, they’ll take it. We could have had five or six and you warn players that if they’re not clinical in training, they won’t be clinical in games. We played at a tempo that wasn’t what was required. We could have scored a lot of goals but I don’t think we deserved to.

“Our decision-making in the final third was poor. Cove are very well organised and a real threat when they go forward but we should have been off to a flyer here. We should have had another five or six.

“It’s a victory and clean sheet – we want to beat the 21 from last year – so we move on. But we have to improve. If you keep a high standard in training, you’ll take it into matches. Unfortunately, Saturday was a continuation of our pre-season, where we’ve played OK in spells but we didn’t do it all game.”

Caley Thistle handed a debut to Shaun Rooney, with fellow new signings Jamie McCart, Tom Walsh and Jordan White on the bench. Cove only had 14 players available and started Daniel Park, a former Inverness youth player, and former Caley Jags transfer target Blair Yule.

As expected the home side started on the front foot, with Coll Donaldson and Liam Polworth both having efforts at goal. Donaldson took aim from 30 yards and sent a bobbling strike wide and Polworth finished off a sweeping move with a shot straight at Stuart McKenzie.

The visitors, who were missing four players including striker Mitch Megginson through suspension, more than held their own, with Park denied a clean run on goal by a well-timed Brad Mckay challenge and Mark Ridgers claiming a Harry Milne header at the second attempt.

After George Oakley tested McKenzie twice, Inverness finally made some headway on 30 minutes when Aaron Doran slid through Oakley and he squared first-time for Austin to tap in at the back post. He doubled his tally four minutes before the break as Rooney’s through ball was latched on to by Polworth and he squared for Austin to roll in to an empty net.

There was little between the sides after the break as the hosts held on to the ball for long periods. A block from Darryn Kelly kept out Doran’s low shot and Paul McManus, who worked the two Inverness centre-backs all game, tested Ridgers with a long-range strike.

It was a laboured performance from the hosts, who could have made the afternoon more comfortable for themselves, with Walsh being denied by McKenzie and White heading against the bar.

CALEY THISTLE – Ridgers 6; Rooney 7, Mckay 6, Donaldson 6, Tremarco 6, Polworth 6, Trafford 6 (Walsh 66), Chalmers 6, Doran 7, Oakley (White 59) 6, Austin (Elbouzedi 72) 7. Subs not used – Hoban, McCart, Calder, Brown.

COVE RANGERS – McKenzie 7; C Milne 6, Strachan 6, Kelly 6, H Milne 7, Park (Emmett 80) 6, Smith 6, Yule 6, Scully 7, Brown (Masson 62) 6, McManus (Gray 80) 6. Subs not used – McCafferty.

Referee – Grant Irvine 6

Man of the match: Stuart McKenzie.