SPFL Ladbrokes Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle started the season slowly under new manager John Robertson, but in recent weeks have picked up. With the Highlanders now rising up the league standings while getting through to the semi-finals of the Irn-Bru Cup, things are a lot rosier for the Caley Jags.
Speaking to Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s YouTube channel after Saturday’s victory over Falkirk, Robertson said:
“We wanted to get to the semi-finals as this cup has been good to us in the past – we knew it’d be tough. Falkirk caused us problems early on with their movement and the guy just off the front, [Louiis] Longridge. We felt in the first-half that, while we still created the better chances, our passing was a wee bit off and our movement was a wee bit and we said that to the players at half-time: we told them that if they took a wee bit more care with the ball and with their passing, and upped their quality by another ten percent, we felt that we would cause the problems that we needed to. We got the goal and we had several opportunities later on to finish the tie off but the last pass just didn’t get there or we couldn’t get the shot away. Overall, I am really pleased and I think the players deserved that tonight.”
Robertson’s side have given this competition “the respect it deserves” and the Highlanders are reaping those rewards after reaching the semi-finals, which will take place in February.
“The Challenge [Irn-Bru] Cup has been good to us this season. It has given us momentum when we needed it, when things weren’t going well. It allowed us the chance for the team to gel more and get to know each other and that is what has happened and we have benefitted from that getting to the semi-finals. We can now give the players a few days off before we focus on two massive league games we have coming up against Brechin then St Mirren, both at home. If we can continue showing the strength we are presently defensively, as well as the cleverness in attack, while getting something out of these matches, then we can haul ourselves back into league contention – as that is our main focus between now and the semi-final – challenging to get back up into the SPFL [Premiership].”
50 minutes was the amount of time remaining pre-match for Mark Ridgers and his defence to set a new club record, but Robertson wasn’t willing to divulge that information to the players prior to the cup clash.
“We told them that if there was a setback and we lost a goal, we don’t care. Today was about winning the cup-tie. I said before we came out, I don’t care if we win 1-0 or 9-8, as long as we win the game. Once we had past the 50th minute, it was a good moment to tell the players, but, it would have been pointless if we hadn’t won the tie. Seven games without conceding a goal, considering the level of competition we are playing at, is absolutely remarkable and they deserve that piece of history – but now we want to make more history.”
“There is a gap now, of 10 days, and for the first time in a long time, we won’t focus on Brechin just yet,” concludes the former East Fife manager. “We will allow the players and staff to have a few days off, contemplate on what has been a terrific run – everybody at the club should be proud as relegation is a tough thing to take, the club has lost money and the fans have been down as we haven’t given them enough to be cheered up and go again but hopefully now they can see we are heading in the right direction. We aren’t the finished article, not by any manner of means, but, we are an honest side; a hard-working side. One thing is for sure – we told them earlier in the season that this is a badge of honour and not just a football badge – and now they are going out there and playing for the name on the front of the jersey, rather than the one on the back.”