Invergordon begin a long-awaited defence of the North Caledonian Cup when they make the trip to Halkirk United this weekend.
The competition has not taken place in the last two years due to Covid-19, with Invergordon the last winners in 2019 when they defeated Alness United at Dudgeon Park.
Invergordon are currently the closest challengers to league leaders Loch Ness, with last weekend’s 2-0 win over Alness United moving them to within four points of the summit.
Having squandered a two-goal lead to go down 4-2 when they last faced Halkirk on league business earlier this month, Invergordon boss Gary Campbell is eager to keep his side competing on both fronts.
Campbell said: “It’s a break from the league where we have the pressure of having to win because it’s quite tight.
“We don’t want to let go of the trophy, as the cabinet will be a bit bare if we lose this one.
“We didn’t play particularly well when we got beaten up there a couple of weeks ago. They deserved to beat us so we will have to perform a lot better.”
Invergordon will be without Charlie MacDonald, Niall Docherty and Darren Goller for this weekend’s match.
The winners of the tie will host Alness in the quarter-finals.
Despite Invergordon’s position in the league, Campbell is seeking an improved performance.
He added: “We have not been playing as well as we can do. We were on a half-decent run before the Christmas break, but since then we have not performed as well as we would like.
“We want to kick on and build a bit of momentum. The results have been decent barring the Halkirk one, but we can improve on our performances.
“We have a couple of boys unavailable, but it will give some boys who have not had much game time a chance to play.”
Invergordon relishing title chase
Campbell insists his side is firmly up for the challenge of catching league pacesetters Loch Ness in the closing stretch of the campaign.
He added: “Over the last four or five years, we have normally been the team out in front in this situation.
“It’s a bit different for us being in the chasing pack. We know that teams can slip up at this time of year, so it’s important we keep on winning our games.
“The team that is the most consistent will end up winning it.”
Mixture of league and cup action
It is a mixture of league and cup action this weekend. Bottom side Inverness Athletic host an on-form St Duthus – buoyed by Monday’s 1-0 victory over Golspie Sutherland – in one of the other cup ties.
NORTH CALEDONIAN LEAGUE FIXTURES – 29.1.22
(SPONSORED BY @MacandMac28)
Golspie v Orkney (12.30)
Loch Ness v Alness Utd
NORTH CALEDONIAN CUP – 1ST ROUND
Bonar Bridge v Thurso
Inverness Ath v St.Duthus
Halkirk Utd v Invergordon
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) January 22, 2022
Bonar Bridge will enjoy home advantage against Thurso in their efforts to claim a last-eight place.
In league duty, Loch Ness will look to stretch their lead at the top of the table when they host Alness United.
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) January 28, 2022
Two of the chasing pack were due face each other, but the Golspie v Orkney game has been postponed due to high winds forecast. Another date will be announced soon.