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Loan striker Joe Hardy keen to continue Caley Thistle push after opening goal account against Hamilton

Joe Hardy celebrates after scoring his first Caley Thistle goal in Friday's 4-0 rout of Hamilton.
Joe Hardy celebrates after scoring his first Caley Thistle goal in Friday's 4-0 rout of Hamilton.

Striker Joe Hardy scored his first Caley Thistle goal in the last game of the Championship season.

However, with potentially six promotion play-off fixtures starting on Tuesday, the on-loan Accrington Stanley forward is thirsty for more.

The former Liverpool youth player, now 23, joined the Highlanders in the winter window and Friday’s 4-0 season-closing rout over Hamilton Accies was his fourth start from 12 appearances overall.

Accrington Stanley striker Joe Hardy has made 12 appearances for Caley Thistle this year.

Inverness are now preparing for Tuesday’s Premiership play-off quarter-final against Partick Thistle, with the return at the Caledonian Stadium this Friday.

Hardy netted the final goal against Accies after a brace from Tom Walsh and a strike from Shane Sutherland all arrived within a sensational first half an hour.

Loan switch working well for Hardy

Although not the cleanest of hits, Hardy was thrilled to get off the mark, and he feels the goal further adds further value to his stint in the north of Scotland.

He said: “It was probably one of my worst finishes, yet it ended up going in. I’ve had other shots go close or be saved, but it doesn’t matter how it goes in, as long as it does.

“I have been waiting for my first goal. It’s tough when you’re a striker and it can take a few games to score. Once you get the first one, your confidence rises, so I’m excited and it’s good for all of us going into Tuesday.

“Hopefully I can kick on and score more in the play-offs.

“This loan move has been enjoyable. It’s been a real eye-opener and the games have been tough.

“It has given me everything I want from a loan move. It has given me the opportunity to be in and around the first-team and be in a promotion push. The first time I’ve gone on loan, I’m experiencing this, so it is perfect for me and my career.”

ICT will give promotion ‘best shot’

Inverness have won six of their last eight fixtures as they finished the campaign in third position, only eight points behind champions Kilmarnock in the end.

Hardy reckons the sweeping display against Hamilton was a fresh reminder of how strong they are as ahead of the play-offs.

He said: “We have got the momentum and we’ve got the quality within the squad – that showed against Hamilton.

“We scored four goals in the first half an hour and it was the perfect way to start the game. we controlled it after that and kept the ball away from them, so that again showed how good we are.

“All of our players are good enough to win these play-offs and get promoted. We will give it our best shot.”

Powerful performance was enjoyable

It was clear Caley Thistle enjoyed Friday’s match from start to finish as they beat Accies for the first time.

And Hardy believes it was the ideal sign-off before the Firhill trip.

He added: “It was a really enjoyable game and the perfect way to end our league season.

“Hopefully we can kick on for a massive game on Tuesday now. It was one of our best performances and it was the perfect situation for us.”

Ready for any opponent – Hardy

Having matched Partick Thistle over four matches this season and beaten the top two sides, Hardy sees no reason to be anything other than confident ahead of kick-off.

He said: “You’re always going to expect a tough game in the play-offs, but the opposition is irrelevant.

“We’ve beaten Kilmarnock, Arbroath and Partick this season, so it doesn’t matter who we’re up against, we can win it and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

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