Coach Barry Wilson reckons criticising injury-hit Caley Thistle right now is unfair as they aim to halt the slump by beating Championship leaders Ayr United on Saturday.
Up to 10 players could be unavailable for the Highlanders as they seek to post their first victory in six outings to slice the gap between themselves and first place to just three points.
Sections of the Inverness support have been vocal about their team’s slide in form, but with many key men – such as Danny Devine, Robbie Deas, Scott Allardice and Shane Sutherland – out, Wilson believes now is not the time to have a go at the team.
He said: “People shouldn’t judge us right now. It’s not fair to judge anyone when they’re missing so many players.
“It’s crazy to take out eight or nine first-team regulars and expect the rest of your squad to be able to step in and keep going as if nothing’s wrong.
“I think it’s pretty unfair to judge us right now.”
Caley Thistle are ‘rolling sleeves up’
Inverness have appealed to the SPFL for special dispensation, which would allow them to recall loan players who are with Highland League clubs.
Striker Ethan Cairns, 17, is at Forres Mechanics, Clach have 18-year-olds, full-back Aly Riddle and midfielder Robbie Thompson, 17-year-old midfielder Harry Hennem is at Wick Academy and Nairn County have 17-year-old keeper Lewis Munro.
If given the go-ahead, ICT will aim to bolster their options with the youngsters.
In the meantime, the Caley Jags have been shaping up in preparation to take on Lee Bullen’s pace-setters Ayr at the Caledonian Stadium. The Honest Men hold a six-point advantage over sixth-placed ICT.
And Wilson is urging the players who take to the pitch for the hosts to showcase what they are capable of against the best team currently in the division.
He said: “We’re just all rolling our sleeves up and getting to work.
“We’re looking forward to the next game and figuring out how we can fix it. We can’t do that by moping about.
“We’re being open about our situation, we’re showing our hand, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
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“The ones that are left are rolling their sleeves up, and it’s their chance to shine so they have to go and try to do that.
“We’re going out on Saturday to try and get back on the winning track.
“They have to give their all. If it’s good enough, great, but don’t leave anything out there is basically the message to the players.”
Big performance needed against Ayr
The first-team coach looks back to when ICT defeated then in-form, free-scoring Partick Thistle 1-0 last month with a Billy Mckay goal.
A repeat of that display and result is just what Caley Thistle need right now to give themselves breathing space on the back of last week’s 2-1 loss against Queen’s Park at Stenhousemuir.
Wilson added: “We’ve got a big performance in us.
“We did have a few more players available against Partick, but by hook or by crook the boys out there know what’s expected of them.
“It’s their chance to shine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, even of the kids coming on when it’s not your standard team, but if they apply themselves that’s all we can ask.
“We’re looking for a performance from them for sure. We weren’t happy with the performance last Saturday, like the fans, but at the same time there’s got to be a bit of reality about it.
“One result buys us another couple of weeks when we might have another one or two back, and that’s what we’re aiming for on Saturday.”
Wilson not ruling out Zak Delaney
Left-back Zak Delaney went off with a hamstring injury late on against Queen’s, but Wilson explained the 20-year-old Irishman might still make the team.
He said: “Zak has a chance, we’re not ruling him out.
“One of the good bits of news we’ve had is that it’s not as bad as we feared with Zak. It might have just been a bit of fatigue on the Astroturf, so it hasn’t gone, it was maybe cramping more than anything.
“There’s still a chance that Zak might start.”