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Caley Thistle kept faith during three-month barren run, says defender Cameron Harper

Caley Jags defender Cameron Harper is ready for Ayr United this weekend.
Caley Jags defender Cameron Harper is ready for Ayr United this weekend.

Cameron Harper insists Caley Thistle’s promotion-chasers never panicked – despite going three months without a victory.

The third-placed Inverness side return to Championship action on Saturday with a testing clash at Ayr United.

The Highlanders are on a quest for their fourth successive win, which would richly bolster their bid to compete in the play-offs.

They are just seven points behind second-placed Arbroath and have a four-point advantage over Partick Thistle as they get set to visit Ayr, who are eighth in the table.

Defender Harper has come off the bench during wins against Arbroath, Raith and Dunfermline.

Results in those games stopped the rot after an 11-match winless run, which began in December and ended last month.

The response from the team has come in the nick of time as they seemed likely to slip out of the top four completely ahead of their match at Raith Rovers, which they turned around at the death to win 3-2.

Inverness began the season in sizzling fashion, winning seven and drawing once in their first round of fixtures.

ICT players believed tide would turn

And Harper, who is pressing for a first start since losing 2-1 at home to Ayr in February, explained the squad kept the faith during the dip in form.

He said: “We have always had the belief we’re as good as anyone in this league. Maybe we’ve not shown it enough with that run we had.

“But, at the start of the season, we were flying, so we have always been confident. In football, the more wins you have, the more your confidence grows and not having a win in 11 matches didn’t help at all, but we all quietly felt we would turn the form around.

“There’s no reason why we can’t be as confident as we’ve ever been when we go into Saturday.”

ICT were idle on Saturday due to opponents Queen of the South being in SPFL Trust Challenge Cup final action on Sunday, a game the Doonhamers lost 3-1 against Raith.

Caley Thistle go in to their trip to the seaside on Saturday fresh from an impressive 2-0 victory against John Hughes’ Dunfermline Athletic.

Harper admits the team were desperate to get back on the park to try to secure a fourth win on the spin.

He added: “Not having a game on Saturday was frustrating off the back of a few really good results.

“We are all buzzing and raring to go. The break will have helped some of the boys with niggles to get themselves feeling 100%, but momentum is huge in football and we would have liked to have played to just try and keep the run going.”

Harper willing to play anywhere

Harper has been in and out of the team this year, with right-back Robbie Deas retaining form at left-back, although he is happy to be pitched in further up the park.

Head coach Billy Dodds has used him as a left-sided midfielder in front of Deas and the confident local has chipped in with a couple of goals and some telling deliveries.

The 20-year-old hopes his versatility will lead to more game time as the season comes to a critical stage with just five games to go.

Cameron Harper celebrates his goal for ICT against Hamilton in December.

He said: “I’ve not played nearly as much as I’d have liked to. It has been a frustrating year for me.

“If you didn’t want to be starting every game as a footballer, there’s something wrong.

“However, whether I start a match or come off the bench for 20-30 minutes, I will always try my best and make an impact as much as I can.

“I think I have a good footballing brain and I’d be confident of playing in most positions. In the 18s, I sometimes played in central midfield.

“Wherever the gaffer plays me, I will always try my best for the team. It’s a squad game and everyone is going to be needed at some stage.”

Inverness winning in different ways

Harper also points to the different ways in which their winning run has been achieved, which is vital as the fixtures run out.

He said: “We won 3-0 against Arbroath, a team that has been flying high this season. To keep a clean sheet against them as well as score three goals was huge for us.

“Then we showed the other side of football by winning in the last few minutes in a big game at Raith Rovers when it really wasn’t going for us.

“We scored those two late (Logan Chalmers’) goals and enjoyed the celebrations at full-time, which is what it’s all about.

Inverness CT head coach Billy Dodds.

“Against Dunfermline, we were solid throughout the game and it was probably one of our best performances of the season.”

Kilmarnock lie in wait after Ayr trip

After facing Ayr, Caley Thistle’s bid for promotion sees them host leaders Kilmarnock a week on Friday before their rearranged journey to Dumfries to tackle struggling Queen of the South on Tuesday, April 19.

Dougie Imrie’s Morton lie in wait at Cappielow on April 23 and Friday fixture on April 29 sees the regular matches conclude with Hamilton heading to the Highlands.

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