Billy Dodds insists his team selection must be taken into consideration following Caley Thistle’s SPFL Trust Trophy exit against Arbroath.
Inverness went down 4-2 at Gayfield, which extended their run without a win to eight matches.
Dodds made eight changes for the trip to Angus, using the tie to rotate his squad and provide game-time for some fringe players.
Arbroath, who were closer to full strength, netted first half goals through David Gold and Thomas O’Brien.
Adam Brooks pulled one back before half-time, however Inverness substitute Harry Lodovica was red carded within two minutes of coming on just after the hour mark, which killed Caley Jags’ momentum in their efforts to level the scoring.
The home side added to the scoresheet through Scott Stewart and Aaron Steele, with Lewis Hyde pulling back a late consolation for the 10-man visitors.
Dodds felt the difference in physicality showed against a robust Red Lichties side, with the loss of cheap goals an all too recurring theme.
Dodds said: “We are losing bad goals, we need to look at that. But we were blooding a lot of young boys and we’ve got to look at that – we had a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old in the middle of the park.
“We are trying to get them experience and game time. Arbroath played a strong side and were more physical than us, and I think that’s what won them the game.
“We have also got to acknowledge that we can’t keep handing teams goals. It doesn’t matter if we’ve got young boys, middle aged or experienced boys, that’s what we have been doing.
“We give them opportunities to get better, but if they don’t improve we get new ones. That’s what we have done.
“If we keep continuing to give people opportunities, and they keep making the same mistakes, we have to change it.
“That’s football, and that’s business. We can’t keep accepting it.
“It will be me – let’s be honest. It’s simple.
“But I don’t want to be too down on them. We have to learn that in types of games like this we have to be more aggressive.”
Inverness side freshened up
Only Brooks, Morgan Boyes and Wallace Duffy, who captained the side, retained their places from the 1-1 draw with Dunfermline.
That allowed opportunities for teenagers Keith Bray and Robbie Thompson in the middle of the park, while Cammy Mackay was between the sticks and Aaron Doran made just his third start of the season.
Mackay was called into action on 16 minutes, blocking a Kenan Dunnwald-Turan effort with his legs after Bray was dispossessed.
Arbroath had taken control of the match and it was no surprise they took the lead on 34 minutes, when Hylton beat Duffy to the ball before sending a teasing low delivery to the far post, where Gold was on hand to tuck home.
Mackay’s excellent fingertip save thwarted Dunnwald-Turan’s header, but Inverness were in all sorts of trouble four minutes before the break when they failed to deal with Michael McKenna’s corner, with the ball dropping to O’Brien to prod home.
The visitors salvaged a lifeline within two minutes. Luis Longstaff showed good footwork down the right before seeing his cross only partially cleared, before it dropped to Brooks to fire home his first Inverness goal.
Caley Jags’ momentum quickly dissipated
Dodds was forced into a change on the stroke of half-time when Duffy limped off, with Cameron Harper brought on in his place, while Charlie Gilmour emerged for the start of the second half in place of Austin Samuels.
Inverness made a strong start to the second half, with Brooks failing to get enough on an effort after going clean through, while Doran came even closer when his effort clipped the crossbar.
Inverness were building momentum but the sting was taken out of them on 63 minutes when Lodovica, just two minutes after replacing Bray, was shown a straight red card by Steven McLean after a high challenge on McKenna.
Arbroath capitalised, with a powerful low strike by Stewart from the edge of the box restoring the two-goal cushion on 70 minutes. There was time for it to worsen for Dodds’ side, when another McKenna set-piece was all too easily scrambled home by Steele.
Hyde’s header reduced the margin of defeat, but this was an afternoon for Caley Jags to forget.
While exiting the SPFL Trust Trophy will not be considered catastrophic, the failure to snap the winless sequence adds more pressure on them to do so on their return to league action.
The Championship’s two leading sides await, with next Saturday’s trip to Raith Rovers followed by a home match against Dundee United.
Inverness cannot afford to put their return to form on hold any longer.
ARBROATH (4-2-3-1): Adams 6; Steele 6, Little 6, O’Brien 6, Stewart 7; Jacobs 7 (Slater 72), Gold 8 (Norey 79); Balde 7 (Dow 59), McKenna 7, Hylton 7 (Stowe 72); Dunnwald-Turan 6 (McIntosh 72).
Subs not used: Gaston.
CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1): Mackay 6; Davidson 6, Duffy 5 (Harper 45), Boyes 6, Delaney 6; Bray 6 (Lodovica 60), Thompson 6 (Hyde 73); Longstaff 7, Doran 6 (Shaw 60), Samuels 5 (Gilmour 46); Brooks 6.
Subs not used: Ridgers.
Referee: Steven McLean 6
Star Man: David Gold