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Are Caley Thistle on track to escape relegation trap-door?

We crunch the numbers as Duncan Ferguson plots Inverness' bid to avoid the bottom two places in the Championship.

Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson.
Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson will aim to keep his team outside of the bottom two places. Image: SNS

Caley Thistle are only above the relegation play-off spot in the Championship on goal difference – and their chasers each have a game in hand.

However, under the guidance of manager Duncan Ferguson, should Inverness supporters be sweating as their team approach their final 13 fixtures of a roller-coasters season?

They are six points clear of Jim McIntyre’s basement fighters Arbroath, while free-falling Dunfermline Athletic are below Inverness by a margin of six goals and zero points after their 3-0 loss against Queen’s Park last week. Caley Thistle have played one match more than both.

Seven new signings during the winter window has given ICT more options and the squad is determined to deliver.

The campaign kicked off with Billy Dodds in the hot-seat fresh from losing 3-1 the Scottish Cup final against Celtic in June.

Lack of consistency hampered Inverness in the league as well as in the Viaplay Cup as they crashed out of the latter in the group stages.

Winless start promoted boss change

Just one point from their first five league games prompted the board to call time on Dodds’ two-and-a-half year stint in charge at ICT.

Former Inverness manager Billy Dodds. Image: SNS

Last September, ICT made the shock – but exciting – appointment of former Everton caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson.

He had a short spell in charge of Forest Green Rovers, but that didn’t go to plan for many reasons and the then 51-year-old was eager to show that.

He was told by Inverness chiefs his remit for 2023-2024 is simply to keep ICT in the second-tier – that remains the case.

Ahead of hosting Partick Thistle this Saturday, Ferguson said: “We’ve never been comfortable or managed to get daylight between us and the bottom of the league. It is very congested down there.

“We want to build on our performances and win the game. We’re desperate for the three points.”

Gayfield victory got the ball rolling…

A 3-2 dug-out debut win at Arbroath got Ferguson off to a flier and three victories and three draws from his first six league games lifted ICT off bottom spot.

They then avoided a shock in the Scottish Cup by beating Lowland League opponents Cowdenbeath 2-0.

The fans were loving it and the short-term capture of former St Johnstone attacker David Wotherspoon, who scored four goals in 11 outings before leaving for Dundee United last month, had the Highlanders on a high.

Spiders rise as ICT slip to eighth spot

However, suffering his first loss at boss in a heart-breaking late 2-1 defeat against comeback kings Raith Rovers on December 2 was a pin in the balloon.

They did bounce back with a sparkling 4-1 Hampden rout of Queen’s Park in what was Robin Veldman’s final act with the Spiders. Callum Davidson has since given them a lift up to sixth spot.

Over their last nine league outings, Inverness have beaten Ayr United and Raith on their travels, but lost five and drawn two.

Home form is an ongoing concern, with just two league wins at the Caledonian Stadium all season making them the third-worst in the division. Away from home, they are the sixth-best.

Inverness boss Duncan Ferguson.
Caley Jags manager Duncan Ferguson. Image: SNS Group

Current rate would keep ICT safe

So, are there cause for optimism or dread as we approach these final 13 matches?

Well, overall Ferguson’s team is earning 1.36 points per fixture.

If that rate continues (and by rounding upwards), they will finish the 36-game campaign on 42 points.

That would be comfortably above what the bottom two teams have ended with in the Championship over the last five (non-Covid-hit) seasons.

Last year, 42 points would have earned them seventh place. In 2021/22, sixth, in 2018/19, they’d have been seventh, in 2017/18, an eighth-place spot would have been theirs, and 2016-17, a tally of 42 points would have secured seventh place.

Caley Thistle’s faint hopes of blasting up to catch in-form Morton – who are eight points ahead with a game to spare – look just that, faint, though not impossible.

But the good news is Ferguson is on course to keep Inverness in the Championship, with the chance to haul in immediate rivals Ayr and Queen’s Park very much in mind.