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Duncan Ferguson targets three Caley Thistle wins after defeat to Ayr United

The latest loss on home soil leaves Inverness in real trouble with just seven Championship games to go.

Caley Thistle striker Billy Mckay scores from the spot against Ayr United.
Caley Thistle striker Billy Mckay scores from the spot against Ayr United. Image: Paul Byars/SNS Group

Caley Thistle boss Duncan Ferguson believes his players must find three wins from their last seven games to avoid the relegation Championship play-offs.

Saturday’s 2-1 home loss against Ayr United leaves ICT stranded in ninth place, two points behind Queen’s Park and now four points behind Dunfermline and Ayr.

George Stanger’s early opener put United ahead, but Billy Mckay levelled from the spot just before half-time.

Fraser Bryden earned full points for the Honest Men, extending ICT’s winless home league run to nine games. Their last victory here came against Ayr on November 11.

Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson. Image: Paul Byars/SNS Group

All eyes now fixed on Tannadice trip

Inverness head to pace-setters Dundee United this Saturday and Ferguson hopes his men can land a blow against the Tangerines, who slipped to a 3-1 defeat against Dunfermline on Friday.

He said: “There will be more twists and turns to come. Teams will lose games. We have been on a bit of a run. We have got to keep going and we need to find three wins from somewhere.

“We will do our best at Tannadice. We need to play much better than we did today.

“Dundee United have pressures to go up and we have the pressures of trying to stay in the division.

“We seem to be slipping up at home. We lost here to Arbroath and Queen’s Park and now Ayr. Our home form has put us on the back foot and in this position.

“If we’d taken a couple of draws in those games, or even one win, we’d be around mid-table. But our home form has been poor all season.”

AAyr’s Roy Syla and Inverness forward Billy Mckay.  Image:  Paul Byars/SNS Group

Two soft goals conceded – Ferguson

Ferguson admits his team were off the pace against Ayr and the manner of the goals conceded was of real concern.

He added: “We gave a lot of effort. The goals came from two set-plays. We started the game well, created a couple of chances. We were the better team but not at our best.

“We didn’t defend the set-plays, the short corner and the throw-in, well enough (leading to the goals).

“In the second half, that was the first time they went up the pitch and they scored from the throw-in.

“We were a wee bit nervous in possession and we never really had the quality in the final third.

“I put all the strikers on and kept Alex Samuel on to try and create that chance. We never had the killer instinct.”

Home form still concerns manager

Caley Thistle – the third-best away team in the division behind top two sides Dundee United and Raith Rovers – cannot buy a win on home soil, a stat Ferguson described as “crippling” last week.

Ayr’s George Stanger (right) celebrates his opening goal.  Image:Paul Byars/SNS Group

Ferguson named an unchanged line-up from the team which drew 0-0 against Ayr United last week.

Ayr arrived in the Highlands having not played since their 2-0 defeat at Dunfermline Athletic on March 2 and Kurt Willoughby, George Stanger and Roy Syla stepped up into their 11.

The days leading up to this clash had been dominated by the club’s bid for a battery storage farm being rejected, potentially wiping out years of multi-million pound income.

Ayr opener followed bright ICT start

Inverness were out of the traps quickly and Max Anderson went close early on, with a deflected drive then a low shot, which goalkeeper Josh Clarke almost spilled.

However, Ayr surprised the hosts when they took the lead when, from a short corner and Harry McHugh’s delivery, Stanger stabbed the ball home from close range.

Inverness midfielder Cammy Kerr and Ayr’s Mark McKenzie. Image:  Paul Byars/SNS Group

ICT responded on 15 minutes when, from a Cammy Kerr set-piece, Alex Samuel hooked a flying volley over crossbar.

Chances were few and far between, but Caley Thistle got their opportunity just before the interval when Billy Mckay went down in the box under a challenge from McHugh.

It seemed a soft one, but the ICT number nine made no mistake as he slammed the ball into the net, sending Clarke the wrong way.

Bryden goal secures victory for Ayr

The leveller gave ICT a lift at the start of the second period, but Ayr were ahead again on 61 minutes.

From a well-worked throw-in, Anton Dowds got the the byeline, cut the ball back and Bryden tapped the ball into the net.

It was almost three with 10 minutes to go when substitute Jamie Murphy burst into the box, but his shot was superbly touched on to the post by keeper Mark Ridgers.

Inverness now face back-to-back away fixtures, against Dundee United on Saturday then Partick Thistle on March 30.

CALEY THISTLE (3-5-2): Ridgers 6, Carragher 6 (Doran 69), Devine 6, Savage 6, Duffy 6, Lawal 6 (Pepple 69), Kerr 6, Anderson 6, Harper 6, Billy Mckay 7, Samuel 6.

Subs not used: Cammy Mackay (GK),  Samuels, Boyes, Brooks.

AYR UNITED (4-4-1-1): Clarke 6, McAllister 6, Sanders 7, Stanger 6, Musonda 6, McKenzie 6, Syla 6, McHugh 7, Bryden 6 (Amartey 70), Willoughby 6 (Murphy 62), Dowds 7.

Subs not used: Albinson (GK), McGinty, Dempsey, McGeady, Chalmers, Tomlinson, McGinley.

Referee: Iain Sneddon.

Attendance: 1,979.

Man of the match: Anton Dowds.