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Golden chance for Caley Thistle to grab safety lifeline if they defeat Queen’s Park

Inverness must take inspiration from their last Hampden visit to aim for win to move out of the play-off berth.

Billy Mckay running on the pitch
Billy Mckay's penalty wrapped up a 4-1 Inverness win at Hampden in December. Image: SNS

Caley Thistle can time their survival run to perfection should they defeat relegation rivals Queen’s Park at Hampden on Saturday.

When second-bottom ICT went down 1-0 at Partick Thistle on March 30, they were four points adrift of Queen’s, having both played 31 of their 36 Championship fixtures.

There was little doubt beating Arbroath at the weekend was absolutely vital for them to stay in the survival hunt.

Having not won at the Caledonian Stadium in almost five months was an added pressure.

United’s five-star rout helped ICT

Queen’s played league leaders and title favourites Dundee United at the national stadium, so there was hope that if Inverness could see off their all-but-doomed visitors Arbroath, they could have fate back in their own hands.

United, who have wobbled at times, roared to a 5-0 rout, while ICT – thanks to Alex Samuel’s 80th-minute clincher – were 2-1 victors to slice the gap to just one point.

There are teams above Queen’s who could come back into the equation in the three closing fixtures after this Saturday.

Duncan Ferguson’s side will complete their nerve-jangling season, which began with Billy Dodds in charge, with games against Raith Rovers, Dunfermline Athletic and Morton.

Queen’s have Dunfermline, Arbroath and Airdrie. Bar Arbroath, all these sides have something at stake.

However, right now Inverness must only focus on the Spiders.

Ex-Inverness duo star for Queen’s

The chance to finish in eighth place, boosted by back-to-back league victories – for the first time this season – is their golden ticket to survival.

Chairman Ross Morrison has spelled out to supporters at public meetings recently just how financially crucial it is for Inverness to remain in the Championship.

Their plans to rake in millions of pounds via the city’s battery storage farm is subject to a Scottish Government appeal.

While Morrison is confident of that Highland Council U-turn ending back in their favour, on the park the side must ensure they are not dragged down to League One via the play-offs.

Fans have quite rightly been frustrated by the team’s poor form and Ferguson has said as much in recent weeks.

Sean Welsh applauds the Inverness fans
Sean Welsh switched from Inverness to Queen’s Park in January. Image: SNS

Losing their captain Sean Welsh to Queen’s Park was a sore one in January and many fans still feel he’s been a big loss to ICT since. He’s played a dozen games already for the Glasgow club.

The added frustration was seeing short-term forward Cillian Sheridan depart Inverness due to a lack of game-time and therefore a lack of goals.

The 35-year-old former Celtic, Kilmarnock and Dundee forward also signed for Queen’s Park and he’s netted three times in eight outings.

Away wins so far between these sides

Arguably, Caley Thistle’s most impressive display of this season came at Hampden in December when, inspired by now Dundee United attacker David Wotherspoon, they ran out 4-1 winners.

It was the last game in charge for Robin Veldman and he was replaced by ex-St Johnstone double trophy winning manager Callum Davidson.

ICT recovered from the loss of an early Jack Turner goal, with Max Anderson, Nikola Ujdur, Wotherspoon and Billy Mckay finding the net.

Queen’s have won twice in Inverness, with striker Dom Thomas scoring on both visits. Injury ruled him out against the Tangerines, so the hosts will hope he’s back in the frame for Saturday.

With two of Caley Thistle’s final three games on home soil, where they have struggled for most of the season, they must take their ‘A game’ to Hampden and to win in Glasgow.

Successive wins is the goal for ICT

Whatever happens, this contest should go to the wire, with that Morton match on Friday, May 3 likely to be a nail-biter.

Inverness lost 2-1 to Ayr on the closing night of last season, denying them a chance of a second successive promotion play-off shot.

In some ways, the stakes are even higher this time because the club simply cannot run the risk of dropping to the third tier.

Saturday’s win has given Ferguson’s players renewed belief that they can stay up. The manager believes his squad are good enough.

It’s all eyes on Hampden now as they seek to grasp the advantage going into the home straight.