It SEEMS that some things never change, as our journey to the Highlands again proved hugely disappointing. We were comprehensively beaten by a well-organised Inverness side who, to their credit, are proving a real force so early in the season.
We can all analyse the result and have an opinion on the performance of the men in green and white, but somewhere along the line you must give some credit to the opposition.
Terry Butcher has worked wonders with a limited budget – possibly one of the smallest in the SPFL – and has put together an extremely hard working yet talented group of players who all play for one another. They quietly and effectively go about their business collecting win after win, something we must strive to do over our next few fixtures.
Our dismal record in Inverness has been well documented and with the number of losses suffered over the years in this particular fixture, a rethink in how we approach this match is essential if we are to improve these statistics. I appreciate that changing a winning side is always a difficult move, but when you take into account past showings against Caley Thistle, careful consideration over team selection and formation should be given in a bid to change our fortunes.
It may be against our principles over time in how we like to play the game, but if it achieves the desired outcome then so be it. There are certainly times in football when you need to show that bit of diversity and I believe this fixture most certainly merits such an approach.
A pre-match team talk given to me by a former manager springs to mind. He spoke at length about how our opponents had enjoyed some previous good results against us and his plan was to mix things up in an attempt to change the outcome. I remember sitting in the dressing-room thinking this is not how we are used to playing – we aren’t used to this style at all – but to his credit, he was proved right as we ran out worthy winners on the day. To say he was unpopular with a number of players in the squad, including myself, would be an understatement, but I did respect his bravery for changing something that just wasn’t working.
Pat Fenlon’s side’s undefeated run has come to a halt, but he will know his newly-assembled squad is still very much work in progress. We enjoyed a good League Cup win over Stranraer last midweek when the supporters were treated to goals aplenty. However, our League One opponents were rightly praised for their display as they pushed Hibs all the way and the scoreline probably flattered us.
Nevertheless, cup football is all about outscoring the opposition and we have now been handed a very tasty quarter-final tie as we welcome our city rivals to Easter Road at the end of next month for a place in the last four. Indeed, the last time we met Hearts at this stage of this competition was almost seven years ago when Rob Jones’ goal was enough for us to progress and we went on to emphatically defeat Kilmarnock 5-1 in the 2007 final at Hampden. Could this just be the omen we are looking for? I do hope so.
However, we have more pressing issues to take care of first and that is getting our league campaign back on track. We face Partick Thistle at Firhill a week today in what is sure to be a difficult encounter but, apart from Inverness, we have shown we are more than capable of picking up all three points on the road. I would like to think this is a venue where we will be able get the ball down and pass with some fluency. We shouldn’t let one defeat deflect us from our aspirations this year and that is finishing as high up the league table as we possibly can.