Manny Duku says Caley Thistle’s botched Premier Sports Cup group campaign will be quickly forgotten if the Highlanders can achieve success in the Championship this season.
Inverness have taken just a point from their last two matches against Stirling Albion and Cove Rangers, meaning they are unlikely to qualify for the knock-out stage even if they finish the section with a victory over Hearts on Sunday.
Dutchman Duku is keen to treat the trip to Tynecastle as preparation for next Saturday’s league opener away to Arbroath, insisting a good result would provide a timely confidence boost ahead of the new campaign.
Duku said: “It is going to be hard now to get out of the group.
“We need to finish strongly, obviously, against Hearts. It doesn’t matter about points, really, but we want to finish strongly against Hearts and take it with us into the league.
“If we win the league, no-one will remember these games we lost.
“We just need to be more solid as a team, from the forwards working hard together, scoring goals, the defence being solid and not conceding against Hearts.
“Let’s do that and go fully fired into the opening game against Arbroath – and do the business.
“If we could cause an upset against Hearts, that would give us the shot in the arm we need.
“For us, it is all about the league, to be honest – especially now that our chance has pretty much gone.”
Jambos will be even stronger
Duku came up against Hearts with Raith Rovers last season, prior to joining Caley Jags earlier this summer.
The 28-year-old expects an even tougher test against the Jambos this time around, following their promotion to the top flight.
Duku added: “I did score last season at Tynecastle, twice, in the league and in the cup, so I have quite an okay record there.
“It gives me confidence going there.
“It is going to be difficult. Last season they had a good team and with them going into the Premiership, it is going to be even stronger.
“It will be even harder, but if we want to do what we aim to this season, we should look to match everything that comes in front of us.
“Especially after a performance like this – we need to be sharper, steadier and more aware.”
Caley Jags head coach Billy Dodds spoke of his disappointment at the goals his side conceded in their 3-1 defeat to Cove on Tuesday.
Duku, who netted a late consolation from the spot, took his share of the blame for passing up key chances earlier in the game.
The 28-year-old added: “Personally, to talk about my own performance, I should have scored the first chance I had.
“I think I had a second one just before they scored as well.
“I could have scored to get us in front and taken the pressure off the team at that stage, then we could have played more freely.
“The manager just said he expected better from the players because he knows the quality we have.
“We shouldn’t be losing 2-0 at half-time against anyone. We are much better than we showed.
“He said to me I needed to be sharper and more clinical, especially in the league if we want to push for whatever we want to do.
“Goals are important. In the league, if you get these chances and don’t take them, and lose 2-0 home or away, it’s not good for team spirit or the confidence of the striker either.
“He was right on top of me and he was right to do it, because I felt personally I should have done more.”