Caley Thistle face an injury sweat over Alex Samuel as a broken hand could put the striker out of Saturday’s Scottish Cup clash with Premiership visitors Hibernian.
The on-loan Ross County forward, who scored a nine-minute hat-trick in ICT’s recent 3-2 Championship win at Raith Rovers, awaits news on whether he can play in the fifth-round tie.
Samuel, 28, who is at Inverness until the end of the season, also netted a goal on his debut, helping the Highlanders to a 4-0 fourth-round cup victory against Lowland League opponents Broomhill.
Samuel could be out for six weeks
Manager Duncan Ferguson, in his pre-Hibs press conference, explained the confident forward is a real doubt for the weekend.
He said: “I don’t know if he can play through it, because it might get worse if he falls on it.
“We’re waiting to find out. We don’t know how long he will be out for.
“If it’s really bad, they’re talking six weeks, but if it’s not he could be available for Saturday.
“We’re talking to the doctors, and maybe a light cast could get him on the pitch.
“If it’s not this week, it might be next, or maybe the week after – they’re just scared in case he makes it worse.”
‘Bizarre’ incident led to Samuel’s broken hand
Ferguson is gutted for Samuel, who has spoken of his gratitude to Ferguson for throwing him straight into the starting 11 following his arrival last month.
The manager said: “It’s just incredible the way it happens, but that’s football.
“It was a bizarre injury – the guy has grabbed him and pulled it in our last match – and he has started so well at Inverness.
“He scored four goals in a couple of games and was really looking good. He was getting fitter and fitter, too, after not getting many minutes at Ross County.
“But hopefully he will be available for Saturday.”
Winger Luis Longstaff – who was due to start against the Easter Road club – is definitely out of the Scottish Cup clash after twisting a knee in training.
‘Pitch is really hard at the moment’
Another cause for concern at the Caledonian Stadium is the rock-hard nature of the pitch due to sub-zero temperatures this week.
Ferguson hopes not only will Samuel make it for Saturday, but that their surface will be ready for action as last year’s cup runners-up Inverness eye the quarter-finals.
He said: “We don’t know if the pitch is going to be ready, although it has cleared up today (Thursday).
“The pitch is really hard at the moment.
“We’re a football team, so we want a good pitch.
“We are a passing and possession team, so I want the pitch to be immaculate, because that will suit our game.
“I’m sure it will suit Hibernian’s game as well – they build through the pitch, they have good pace and a bit of everything really – but we want a good pitch.
“Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re not getting results at home right now.”
We believe we can beat Hibernian – Ferguson
Caley Jags lost 1-0 at home to Queen’s Park last week, while, on Wednesday, Hibs ran Premiership leaders and defending champions Celtic close, losing 2-1 late on.
Ferguson is confident that if it is game on, his players will be a strong match for their visitors, adding: “We’re up for it – we’re ready and motivated.
“Obviously we lost our last home game, which wasn’t a nice experience at all, and we want to bounce back with a victory.
“Hibs are a good team, but so are we, and we believe we can beat them.
“The boys are ready and up for it, and hopefully we can go deep in this tournament.
“We have a good tradition in this cup, so hopefully that can continue on Saturday.”
ICT may have to counter-attack more
And Ferguson explained how his men will adapt their approach for opponents from the division above.
He said: “We might have to counter-attack a bit more, because Hibs might have more possession than we’ll be used to in our league, so we’ve worked on our off-the-ball stuff a bit.
“We won’t change our style, though. It will be down to how good Hibs are on the day, but we want to keep the ball and create chances as we have been doing.
“Our style of play is there for all to see, and hopefully we can stick the ball in the net this time.”