Highland may have ended 2021 in defeat but they remain on track for a successful conclusion to the National 1 campaign.
The Inverness outfit have encountered bumps along the road, but a return of eight victories from 13 games has lifted them to sixth in the table.
With only eight points separating them from leaders Heriot’s Blues, this year’s title race is like no other head coach Davie Carson has seen before.
Carson, whose side have nine games remaining, is intent on keeping Highland in the conversation for as long as possible.
He said: “We never expected it to be so open at the beginning of the season.
“The top six are all beating each other, and the top eight are all beating each other.
“You never know what results are going to come each Saturday.
“We are still fighting in there, it’s not as if the season is finished now. There is loads to play for.
“There is Boroughmuir at home, and then we have three or four away on the trot.
“It will be a tough January for us, but the travel has never been an issue for us. We have shown we can win away from home this season.”
Carson thrilled with response to slow start
It has not all been plain sailing for Highland, who started the campaign with back-to-back defeats to Ayr and Kelso.
That prompted a rallying cry from Carson, who has been thrilled with the determination his players have shown since.
He added: “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster. We had a really slow start with our first couple of defeats, and then we went on a really good run of five games that we won.
“It has been like that since the start of the season. It epitomises the squad we have got up here. When we have really got to win games, the boys have pulled them out of the hat over the years.
“We certainly did that again this year. After losing our first two, we played Heriot’s at home, which doesn’t get much bigger, but we went on and won it.
“They have done it three or four times already this season when we haven’t been expected to win, but they have produced some fantastic performances.
“I think we have got to a different place in the last month. We had a good run of three wins before we slipped up against Heriot’s just before Christmas.”
Highland’s fresh blood encourages Carson
Carson has been forced to introduce fresh faces to his side following an 18-month shutdown, with injuries and unavailability causing him to be without a number of experienced players.
The Highland head coach has taken encouragement from the way his new charges have settled into the side, as the club look to continue the stunning progression they have made since winning promotion from Caledonia 1 in 2016.
Carson added: “Overall I think we have done really well. There have been a lot of changes, with eight or nine players being blooded into National 1 who hadn’t played that level before.
“A few experienced players have been injured or unavailable.
“It was always going to be a bit of a learning curve. But I’m pleased with how some of these guys have stepped up and reacted.
“That’s just the team spirit we have up here. They never let us down in the way they play for the club and the badge.”