Danny Devine reckons the arrival of Duncan Ferguson as Caley Thistle’s manager has given the squad a fresh lease of life as they aim to keep their unbeaten run under their new boss going.
Experienced defender Devine, who looks the part within a new three-man backline alongside Nikola Ujdur and Morgan Boyes, believes ICT have areas to improve upon, but he also sees definite signs of progression since Ferguson’s arrival.
Ferguson replaced Billy Dodds in late September and has only been in charge for five games.
However, Saturday’s 3-1 home win against Ayr United maintained their unbeaten run under the 51-year-old ex-Everton caretaker boss.
They nudged up one place from ninth in the Championship, and should they defeat Devine’s previous club Dunfermline Athletic in Fife in Saturday’s rearranged match, they will surge up to fifth spot, replacing the Pars.
The boys have ‘taken to’ Ferguson
Scottish Cup winner Devine, 31, explained how Ferguson’s appointment led to a regrouping within the Caledonian Stadium with the side rock-bottom and winless up to that point under Billy Dodds.
Devine said: “When the manager came in, we spoke about it as a squad and the words “clean slate” were mentioned.
“The manager was not really too familiar with Scottish football when he came in because he’d worked in England for most of his career, but he watched a few games before coming in and done his homework.
“The boys have really taken to him – it’s shown in our performances.
“We’ve been really working on our passing game, including working the overloads with the boys further up the pitch.
“Against Dundee United (in the recent 1-1 draw), there were some very good patterns of play that we didn’t capitalise on. But we did against Ayr on Saturday.
“Even the own goal (from David Wotherspoon’s strike) came from a good bit of play and good movement.
“We’ve worked on it and it’s starting to show on the pitch.”
Devine admits side were ‘bit sloppy’
On Saturday, a close-range Wotherspoon strike followed by a heavily-deflected shot from the ex-St Johnstone star made it 2-0, before Billy Mckay added a third from the spot on the stroke of half-time. Jamie Murphy’s spot-kick in the second half was Ayr’s sole response.
Northern Irishman Devine was delighted to defeat mid-table Ayr, but stressed they can do much better.
He said: “To be honest, I thought we were a bit lucky to be 3-0 up at half-time.
“We were a bit sloppy in our passing and general play, but I thought we scored three good goals. The way in which we scored the three goals was very good.
“We worked the ball really well, which is something we’ve been working on, but I felt especially in the first half, we were a bit slack.”
Some of our play was ‘unbelievable’
When quizzed on his assessment of their performance, which seemed much more positive from the outside looking in, Devine admits it comes down to the in-house demands under Ferguson’s management to hit new heights.
He added: “Some of the stuff we played on Saturday was unbelievable in terms of our passing.
“It shows the high standards we set within this team that we came in at half-time leading 3-0 and we say we’ve been a bit sloppy on the ball, especially in that first 20 minutes.
“Against Dundee United and Ayr, there has been some really good play.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the results.
“We’re climbing the table. If we can win games by playing like that, then even better.”
Morning ICTFC Fans!
The goals from yesterday's 3-1 win against Ayr United at the Caledonian Stadium!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 🔴🔵 pic.twitter.com/sFNqRqv0n7
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) November 12, 2023
Devine is fan of three-man defence
The 3-5-2 formation was brought in by Ferguson two weeks ago for their trip to leaders Dundee United and he kept it that way against Ayr.
Devine is relaxed about that line-up.
He said: “The way the manager wants to play, it’s easier getting the ball out from the back.
“Even in open play, it gives you an extra option.
“It gives the boys further up the pitch a wee bit more freedom. knowing we have the three at the back and that’s secure.
“I have played within three at the back before and I quite like it.
“The team has taken to it really well, as you can see.”
Top half of the table is ICT’s target
Dunfermline lost 2-1 late on to Dundee United on Friday and are two points ahead of ICT ahead of this weekend’s East End Park clash.
Devine says the full focus is on trying to land what would be another three valuable points.
He said: “We always say the next game is the most important.
“Saturday against Ayr was massively important. We needed three points to stay within touching distance (of the teams above).
“Again, this weekend against Dunfermline is the most important game for us.
“We want to keep building towards that top end of the table.
“It will be tough, as it is every week no matter who you play.
“It’s up to us to perform, and if we can perform like we did overall on Saturday, then we’ll be fine.”