Caley Thistle boss Duncan Ferguson praised his young back three for impressing in their Scottish Cup defeat against Premiership visitors Hibs.
Three January arrivals – Jeremiah Chilokoa-Mullen, 19, James Carragher, 21, and Remi Savage, 22 – largely stood up to the challenge in the fifth-round clash.
Chilokoa-Mullen, who is on loan from Hibs, and ex-Newcastle defender Savage played 70 minutes, with the scoreline at that point only 1-0 through a deflected Myziane Maolida goal.
A misjudged clearance from substitute Morgan Boyes let in Martin Boyle for number two and Elie Youan’s goal from a breakaway made it three before Aaron Doran’s fine consolation arrived too late.
Carragher coped after yellow card
On-loan Wigan centre-half Carragher, whose famous footballing dad Jamie watched from the stands, was strong throughout.
He drew praise from the boss along with his young defensive partners, who until coming to Inverness had not played senior competitive club games.
Ferguson said: “Our average age was 23 on Saturday. The young boys did very well at the back.
“I shook it up in the end because I felt they were tiring a little bit.
“James Carragher did very well considering he got a yellow card early doors (after 28 minutes). I was a bit worried about him continuing given that happened so early on.
“James did very well on Saturday, with a lot of good defensive actions, with the two lads either side of him also doing well.
“It was a quicker tempo to the game than we are used to, so the midfield players needed to quicken up the play and they did that in the second half.
“Unfortunately, for the first goal, we didn’t quite connect our play and that gave Hibs the opportunity.
“If you go down 2-0 against a team like Hibs, it’s a mountain to climb.”
‘Massive’ match against Partick next
This weekend, third-placed Partick Thistle head north as ICT’s Championship opponents following the Glasgow Jags’ 3-2 extra-time cup defeat against Premiership basement side Livingston. Thistle led 2-0 before a Lions’ fightback.
Ferguson insists Inverness must take heart from the good parts of their cup performance and go in with confidence against Thistle.
He added: “The league is the bread and butter.
“We always wanted to dream and go deep in the tournament, but we came up against a top team in Hibs.
“We acquitted ourselves well and kept on pushing and pushing – and we scored the last goal.
“There were positives to take from it, but it’s now down to league business. We have a massive game on Saturday and it’s one we’re all looking forward to.”