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Steven Hislop tips former Ross County duo to give Caley Thistle title chance

Michael Gardyne
Michael Gardyne

Steven Hislop reckons Caley Thistle will take some stopping in the Championship if two former Ross County stars combine to keep them at the top.

Hislop played for both senior Highland clubs and he’s watching on with interest at Michael Gardyne and Billy Mckay settling into life at the Caledonian Stadium.

Steven Hislop rates Caley Thistle’s current strikeforce in the Championship.

Mckay, now in his third spell with ICT, and County’s record scorer Gardyne joined Billy Dodds’ team this summer after the Staggies swung the axe through their playing squad.

Gardyne’s goal in the 2-1 league loss at Hamilton on Saturday took him on to three for the season.

Mckay, who is now injury-free and fighting for a starting spot, scored two in the 4-0 SPFL Trust Trophy victory over Buckie Thistle last month.

Bite in attack can lead ICT to glory

The slip-up at Accies wasn’t enough to knock ICT off first place in the Championship as six wins and a draw beforehand have them three points clear of Kilmarnock.

Hislop, who won the second-tier title and the Challenge Cup with ICT in 2003/04, believes that’s a front-two pairing of quality which could bang in match-clinchers between now and the end of the season.

He said: “In Michael and Billy, you have two of the best players in the league. They have won a watch with those two.

Billy Mckay scored twice in the SPFL Trust Trophy win over Buckie Thistle last month and he’ll be in contention for a start against Elgin City on Saturday.

“If they can stay injury-free, along with the likes of Aaron Doran, then I really think it will be hard to stop Caley Thistle this season. They can get them back to winning games to keep them top of the table.

“There are also pretty solid at the back, with Mark Ridgers especially keeping them tight.

“My only concern with Caley Thistle is what it always is – they have never had the biggest of squads in terms of their budget, so it is whether they can maintain their form of the season.”

Robbo, now Dodds helping strikers

Hislop believes the Inverness front-line can only benefit from being coached by former Scotland, Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee United striker Dodds in their quest to shoot to glory this term.

He added: “As a striker, it’s always good to work under a manager who’s been a striker.

Caley Thistle head coach Billy Dodds.

The players at Inverness are clearly producing the goods and they will have learned from Robbo (John Robertson) in seasons gone by, now they have another proven scorer who will help them.”

Elgin are dangerous cup opponents

This Saturday, it’s round three of the SPFL Trust Trophy, formerly known as the Challenge Cup.

The Caley Jags nip along the A96 to face League Two Elgin City, who have yet to fire this season, with their 2-0 defeat at home to Stirling Albion leaving them seventh, and seven points off fourth position.

The Inverness team made 10 changes when they beat Highland League side Buckie Thistle in the last round.

Although that’s unlikely to be repeated against Elgin, Hislop insists the Black and Whites will be relishing this free shot with a quarter-final spot up for grabs.

He added: “I won the Challenge Cup with Caley Thistle and it doesn’t matter what the competition is, you want to be winning it.

“Elgin will look and see if Caley Thistle change things up, is that a sign of disrespect? They might then feel they have a wee chance of winning.

“Elgin have (assistant manager) Steven Mackay there now, who as an ex-Ross County boy will want to help put one over them, so it should be a good game and I can see quite a few goals in it.

“It’s a blow for Elgin that Kane Hester is out injured. He worked under me at Arbroath and he’s a top striker, but it opens the door for someone else to come in and show Gavin (Price) and Steven (Mackay) what they can do.”