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Cameron Harper calls on Caley Thistle to rise to early season pressure in must-win Premier Sports Cup game against Cove Rangers

Caley Thistle defender Cameron Harper.
Caley Thistle defender Cameron Harper.

Caley Thistle defender Cameron Harper feels the early taste of pressure games can act as strong preparation for his side’s upcoming Championship campaign.

Inverness’ 2-2 Premier Sports Cup draw against League Two side Stirling Albion, from which they missed out on the bonus point, has left Billy Dodds’ men realistically needing at least five points from their final two Group A matches in order to reach the knockout stage.

Caley Jags make the trip to Cove Rangers tonight, before finishing their group campaign away to newly-promoted Premiership side Hearts on Sunday.

Cameron Harper.

With Dodds demanding a strong reaction from his side at Balmoral Stadium tonight, Harper hopes his side can show they are capable of delivering in the face of adversity.

Harper said: “Every game is a must-win, but it now has that added bit edge that we have to go and win this game.

“Now it becomes a must-win if we want even a chance of getting out of this group.

“It’s good to have pressure games, as we want to see how we will react under it.

“It’s a must-win game, but it’s about going and winning it really. That’s the only thing we can do.

“The only thing in our minds is that we have to go and win that game, and we will do everything to make sure we can.”

Caley Jags’ slip-up against the Binos followed a 2-0 victory over Peterhead last Tuesday, in Dodds’ first competitive game in charge.

Harper is eager to regain consistency in the final two cup matches, prior to their league opener away to Arbroath on July 31.

Cameron Harper closes down Arbroath’s Michael McKenna.

Left-back Harper added: “I was a little bit surprised, but I think it just shows we need to be on it all the time.

“When we are on it we are a good side, and we are a good match for teams, but we can’t switch off.

“I don’t think we took it lightly, that’s not the word I would use, but we were not fully at the races straight away and we rightly got punished for it.

“After that poor start, we were always chasing the game. We were disappointed in the way we started as we really should have been winning that game.

“The Peterhead game was our first competitive game, and I thought we played well and were building up that momentum going into the Stirling game.

“Everyone was confident, but having that blip we had was not ideal. It has probably put a wee downer on everything.

“We’ve got to get that momentum going for ourselves again, and try to get a run going.”

Teenager Harper has played the duration of both matches so far, following on from a fine breakthrough campaign last term in which he made 29 appearances.

The 19-year-old, who was called into Scotland’s under-21s squad for a double-header against Northern Ireland last month, feels Dodds has struck a strong blend of youth and experience in his squad at Caledonian Stadium.

Harper added: “We have got a really good mix here. There are the young boys like myself, Roddy MacGregor, Robbie Deas and Wallace Duffy.

Kirk Broadfoot in action for Inverness.

“We’ve got slightly older boys like Sean Welsh, Michael Gardyne and Kirk Broadfoot, who are very experienced and very good players.

“They are always talking to the boys, they will give them little bits of help in training.

“Having those experienced boys is going to hold us in good stead, when things maybe aren’t going ideally. When things are going well they will keep everyone down and tell us we still have a job to do.

“It’s a really good mix.”

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