Billy Dodds insists Caley Thistle know all about dangerous Dunfermline – but he has backed his Championship high-fliers to bounce back to form in Fife on Wednesday.
Arbroath’s midweek fixture against Hamilton has been postponed due to injuries and Covid issues at Accies taking their squad numbers too low to fulfil the fixture, meaning ICT will go level top with a victory.
ICT have picked up just one point from their two games against Dunfermline this season, with Hughes’ first game since being appointed manager being a 2-1 comeback victory at the Caledonian Stadium last month.
However, overall Dunfermline have won a mere two matches from their last 21 fixtures, spanning back to when Peter Grant was the boss. It leaves the Fifers one point ahead of basement side Morton.
Inverness have players returning to their travelling squad who have not trained, other than following programmes at home over the past week, adding to the challenges for Dodds.
However, while no one at Caley Thistle will dismiss a team at the wrong end of the division, the head coach is confident his players can get the job done at East End Park.
Dodds said: “I watched their game on Sunday, because we obviously play Dunfermline and then Arbroath next.
“I thought Dunfermline were a bit unlucky during the game. They maybe didn’t use it like they wanted at times, but they had a lot of the ball – Arbroath were just clinical.
“Dunfermline are battling for their lives now, they’re second bottom, and they will keep giving it everything they’ve got.
“It’s the usual story – we’ve got to look after ourselves. It will be a tough game.
“They will want to bounce back from a 3–0 defeat, but we’re more than capable if we’re at it.”
ICT won’t take Fifers lightly – Dodds
Dodds dismisses the notion Dunfermline’s dire results might make them prime targets in midweek, pointing out ICT have yet to get one over them yet this term.
He said: “Dunfermline are a dangerous team. They may be a wee bit low in confidence, but they have some good players.
“I’d rather be in our position than their’s, of course, but it is still a tough game.
“When I first came in here, we won 1-0 and it was a tough game. When they were at the top and we were at the start of a run (last season).
“(This season) we’ve drawn 0-0 down there and they’ve beaten us 2-1 in Inverness.
“There’s no way I’m going to, or my team are going to, take them lightly.”
John Hughes makes his first #DAFC signing ✍️
Welcome @StevenLawless91, joining until the end of the season. 🏁
— Dunfermline Athletic (@officialdafc) December 27, 2021
Despite Arbroath sweeping to victory over the Pars on Boxing Day, Dodds still expects Hughes’ troops to come at them all guns blazing.
Caley Thistle have more than held their own against their promotion rivals – Arbroath, Raith Rovers, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle.
They have beaten Killie twice, taken four points off Raith and Thistle and won one and lost one against Arbroath.
Yet they have slipped up by dropping four points to Dunfermline, have been held by Ayr United and lost twice to Hamilton – all sides in the bottom half of the table.
However, Dodds stressed every opponent will present their own sets of tests and, in fact, ICT have coped well in many of these kinds of matches.
He added: “I’ve heard it said we’ve struggled against teams down the bottom, but we’ve also beaten Morton twice and Queen of the South twice, Ayr once.
“That’s 15 points right away out of our 34. Whether teams are sitting in on you or not, you have to handle it.
“If they come out and play against us, we have to exploit the space. It is exactly what we try to.
“I’m not going to say we’ve struggled against this or should do better against that because there is no perfect formula for beating a team. You just have to handle it.
“If you think you’ve got the better players, then somehow or another you’ve got to get the job done.”
Former Inverness boss Hughes won his first official match in charge of the Pars, a 3-0 win against Ayr, but that has been followed by three defeats and a draw in their last four contests.
Seven of their 10 outfield players who were beaten by Arbroath on Sunday were aged 24 or under, with Hughes urging his side to be more streetwise at key moments.
Hughes made his first signing as Pars boss on Monday night when he snapped up ex-Motherwell winger Steven Lawless until the end of the season.