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Steven Hislop: Caley Thistle must be on guard for impressive Raith Rovers

Ex-Inverness striker warns of high-flying Fifers' threat as Caley Jags aim to make it eight games without loss under boss Ferguson.

Former Caley Thistle striker Steven Hislop.
Former Inverness striker Steven Hislop.

Former Caley Thistle striker Steven Hislop reckons Duncan Ferguson’s unbeaten record will be fully tested by Raith Rovers this weekend.

Having booked their place in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup thanks to a 2-0 win against Lowland League visitors Cowdenbeath, ICT will be looking to move closer to mid-table in the Championship by seeing off the in-form Fifers.

Another Lowland League side, Broomhill, await them in the next round of the cup on January 20.

Rovers have lost just once in the Championship this term and swept to a 3-0 derby victory at Dunfermline Athletic on Friday to line up a fourth-round trip to top-flight Livingston in the cup.

Second-placed Rovers are four points behind unbeaten league leaders Dundee United, and with a game in hand.

Impressive Rovers chase United

Ferguson replaced Billy Dodds in the Caley Jags hot seat in late September and they have three league wins and three draws under him so far.

Hislop, who starred for ICT from 2002-2006, expects that record to come under close scrutiny this weekend.

He said: “I was impressed with Raith Rovers on Friday. They have got a lot of good players and they are very well organised under Ian Murray.

“They are high in confidence. Raith’s biggest problem might be that Dundee United are now out of the Scottish Cup (after they were knocked out by Queen of the South at the weekend). All United’s eggs will be firmly in one basket.

“Dundee United have a bigger squad and a bigger budget, so I’d imagine they will dip into the market in January.

“Saturday will be a big test for Inverness to see how far they have come in a short space of time. It should be quite an entertaining game.

“They also have quite a good record against Raith Rovers, so they can now concentrate on the league until the Scottish Cup comes around again in January.”

Caley Thistle manager Duncan Ferguson. Image: SNS Group

Confidence rising at ICT

Ferguson, while happy to have not lost yet, would have liked to have turned draws into wins, such as when they were denied late on for a 1-1 outcome at Dunfermline recently.

Hislop, however, said even the draws can help take them where they want to be.

He said: “Although they have not moved much up the table, at least they are getting more points now under Duncan.

“When he took over, they were bottom of the league, so at least they’ve made some progress. When you don’t lose games, confidence builds.

“I would imagine Inverness are now aiming for the play-offs and, if not, they can rebuild and see what it’s like for next season.

“I’m sure he will be happy, because if someone had offered him a seven-game unbeaten run when he came in he’d have been quietly happy.”

Inverness avoided cup ‘banana skin’

Hislop, who was assistant manager at Lowland League club Tranent Juniors until this summer, took an interest as Cowdenbeath competed well but lost late goals at ICT on Saturday.

He said: “The most important thing is when you draw a lower league team is that you get a home draw. It was a banana skin on Saturday, but Inverness got through.

“The lower division sides will, quite rightly, mainly sit in and hit on the break.

“It’s always hard, but Inverness kept doing what they were doing and, as soon as they scored the first goal, everything becomes a little bit easier.

“The main thing is they won, got the job done and they now have another favourable home tie.

“It was a big game for Cowdenbeath against a team now managed by Duncan Ferguson. It’s a long way up there and they will have wanted to make a good account of themselves.

“There was always a chance one team could cause an upset. They would have wanted it to be them to get a shot at Celtic, just like Buckie Thistle did. That’s football.”

Broomhill trickier than Cowdenbeath

Hislop is sure Ferguson and his players will learn from the experience of facing the Blue Brazil by the time Broomhill come calling.

He added: “I’d say Broomhill might be a wee bit trickier for Inverness. Teams from the west tend to be a wee bit more robust, physical and streetwise.

“Formerly Open Goal Broomhill, they have changed where they play too, but they do have an experienced manager and backroom staff as well as a few experienced players, so it is another banana skin, but it’s at home, so this is still a good chance for them to progress to the next round,

“They will have seen what Cowdenbeath are like, so they will know it won’t be an easy game.

“This time, it will be a case of trying to score that first goal as early as they can and not be impatient.”