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Billy Dodds insists Caley Thistle are proving their worth in chase for promotion

Inverness manager Billy Dodds. Image: SNS Group
Inverness manager Billy Dodds. Image: SNS Group

Billy Dodds believes matching Championship leaders Queen’s Park proves Caley Thistle have the quality required to be promotion contenders.

Ahead of taking his team to in-form Raith Rovers on Saturday, the Inverness head coach reflected on their last match two weeks ago, which was a pulsating 0-0 draw with pacesetters Queen’s. 

They host Owen Coyle’s Spiders again this Tuesday in the rescheduled Scottish Cup fourth-round tie after it was postponed last week, with a trip to Premiership Livingston awaiting the winners on February 11.

Before that, a trip to Kirkcaldy sees sixth-placed ICT take on a Rovers side now eight successive matches in all competitions without defeat and just one place and one point below them.

Incredibly, Raith have not beaten the Highlanders in a league contest since October 2000, that’s 30 games over 90 minutes, although they have had cup-tie successes in games which have gone the distance.

Inverness are three matches unbeaten, with 6-1 and 4-1 routs against Cove Rangers and Arbroath preceding the 0-0 draw with Queen’s Park, leaving them three points outside the top four.

High levels must be maintained

Dodds, whose side reached the Premiership play-off final last season, believes with some injured stars on the brink of returning, the signs are positive.

He said: “We’ve proven we can be challengers last season, with what we achieved. We kept a good core of that squad and then we got those injuries.

“But we’ve just played Queen’s Park, who are top of the league, and we were competitive against them. It was a really good game.

“That shows the levels we can get to. It shows what we’re capable of, giving Queen’s Park a really good game and we have to keep those levels up.

“If we do, we can make a push. It will be hard work and will take a lot of effort.

“From second place to seventh, where Raith are, there is not too much between the sides.

“It’s coming to that crucial point of the season where it’s really good to put a wee run together, to latch on to others and try to get into the top four.

“I just want us to carry on the form we’ve shown against Cove Rangers, Arbroath and Queen’s Park. If we can keep that going, we will be okay.”

Only hard work can keep run going

While ICT prepared for this weekend, Raith won their rescheduled Scottish Cup tie 2-0 at Linlithgow Rose on Tuesday to secure a home tie with Motherwell next month.

Dodds is relishing the return to action for his players, and knows only a strong performance from his visitors will keep their impressive head-to-head statistic alive.

He said: “We’re a week closer with some of the players. Momentum is always good in football and I’d still liked to have played last week.

“We’ve still got the momentum, don’t get me wrong, but while Raith have been playing, we won’t have had a game in a couple of weeks.

“I’m looking forward to the game. It’s a crucial one. Everyone always talks about our record against Raith, which is nice, but we’ll have to work hard to keep that going, because they’re a good side.

“We realise where we are in the season and we have to keep getting results. If we can put a good chunk of results together, we will be there or thereabouts.

“We want to be pushing for the top four. If we can do that then let’s see where it takes us, but it’s one step at a time. If we look too far ahead, we’re in trouble.”

Raith ‘can cause teams problems’

Few ICT fans will forget last March when Rovers led 2-1 at Stark’s Park going into the final minute when two goals from on-loan Dundee United attacker Logan Chalmers earned Caley Thistle a stunning 3-2 victory. 

This season, Inverness won 2-0 at Raith in September, while it ended 1-1 in Inverness one month later. 

Dodds would opt for less drama than last year and take another measured display in Fife to earn the win.

He added: “I’d be looking for a performance like when we won 2-0 last time we were at Stark’s Park.

“We worked ever so hard. It was a tight game. We took the lead and we got a late (second) goal. I’d take that sort of performance and result.

“We know Raith like to get in the pockets, have good players on the ball and they cause teams trouble.

“Raith are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, so we know what they’re capable of. It will be tough, but if we’re solid at the back, I know we can create as well. That’s what we’ll be looking to do.”

Dodds still open to third arrival

With the transfer window closing next week, Dodds remains open to bringing in a replacement, following striker George Oakley leaving them to join rivals Morton.

The manager says the club must be “shrewd” in their efforts to recruit, having brought in midfielder Jay Henderson on loan from St Mirren and ex-Manchester United and Burnley academy midfielder Ben Woods.