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Caley Thistle number one Mark Ridgers aims to capture further fans with winning displays

Caley Thistle number one Mark Ridgers.
Caley Thistle number one Mark Ridgers.

Mark Ridgers lapped up the roars when Caley Thistle sunk Raith Rovers – now he hopes their winning form can help bring more people through the turnstiles.

The experienced goalkeeper has kept successive clean sheets in 1-0 Championship wins against Arbroath and Raith, and Inverness are now getting set to host Ayr United in the league next Saturday.

Supporters were back for league action as Caley Thistle hosted Raith Rovers.

More than 1,600 fans were back inside the Caledonian Stadium last weekend as restrictions eased and they saw Billy Dodds’ team edge past Rovers thanks to a wonderful winner from young substitute Roddy MacGregor.

Ridgers loved the reaction from the crowd to that sweet strike and he hopes  winning form, which has put the team joint top of the table with Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock, will have lasting benefits.

He said: “Supporters make a massive difference, even in the build-up when you are warming up. It’s great to have people in the stands again.

“The roar from the crowd when Roddy scored – that’s what you miss. That’s a step forward. We need to get more in the door.

“It was important we won against Raith, because if we lose a game like that when the punters are just back in the door then some might opt not to come on a Saturday.

“Hopefully, with the positive start we’ve had, it will encourage more to come along. The away fans, like at Arbroath, were brilliant and they always make a noise.

“At home games, if we can get them in there too and getting good results will help bring more in and that’s what we aim to do, carrying that on against Ayr.”

Hughes adds new dimension to club

One signing that Dodds secured this summer as he settled into the role of head coach was to recruit his former Ross County colleague Ross Hughes. He brings sports science knowledge to the role of head of physical performance.

ICT head coach Billy Dodds, left, with head of physical performance Ross Hughes.

Ridgers explained that every detail for every player is captured by Hughes and the coaches in a bid for overall improvement.

He said: “Ross works with the squad in the warm-up and the sports science aspect of it, as well as the GPS for games and training. The manager really rates him highly, having worked with him at Ross County.

“He has helped with the intensity in training. That has changed. Some days are longer than others and he has all the data on every player to know what’s required.

“It’s also about how to recover, which has been really interesting. I’ve not had that in my time at the club yet, so it’s been great. The manager trusts him and we’ll see the benefits of him working with us hopefully throughout the season.”

Cup gave Dodds little time to settle in

Inverness CT have responded superbly to crashing out of the Premier Sports Cup with those back-to-back opening league wins.

After an opening win against Peterhead, they lost on penalties to Stirling Albion then 3-1 against Cove Rangers before an improved showing in a 1-0 defeat at Premiership Hearts.

However, Ridgers – who turned 31 this week – put the cup losses into a realistic context at a time when teams, especially with a new boss on board, are normally shaping up in a non-competitive environment.

He added: “It’s been difficult to get pre-season friendlies, especially over the last 18 months with Covid.

Caley Jags head coach Billy Dodds.

“With the League Cup, the manager has come in with his own ideas which he is looking to implement. Previously, we’d have been playing Highland League teams and it can be a false dawn as you’re playing opposition you should be beating.

“But this time, we were trying different things out in the Peterhead, Stirling and Cove Rangers games. These were the only opportunities he had to try things and he has found out what works to a degree and what doesn’t.

“So, while it was disappointing not to get through, we were still trying to find that balance and we have taken that into the league and our two wins have shown we’re taking on board what the manager said.”

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