On-loan Hibs winger Daniel MacKay is urging his Caley Thistle teammates to respond in the best possible way to their ‘monster’ Championship mistake at Partick Thistle.
Friday’s shock 4-1 defeat at Firhill was ICT’s first defeat of the season, after progressing to the second round of the Premier Sports Cup, which will take them to Premiership Motherwell next Wednesday.
There have been just four league games and ICT are in mid-table after draws with Queen’s Park and Arbroath, a 4-1 win over Cove Rangers and then the bad night at Partick.
As the Highlanders prepare for their home clash against Morton on Saturday, they are aiming to close the gap to early leaders Ayr United.
The Honest Men are one point ahead of Partick, Dundee and Queen’s Park. Raith Rovers are one place and one point above TIC.
Caley Thistle and Morton are locked on five points, so a second straight home win will put them back in the top tier, with Ayr and Dundee meeting at Somerset Park on Friday.
A strong mindset will serve ICT well
MacKay, 21, who has returned to Inverness on loan for a season from Hibs, insists the team are determined to show that Friday was just a bad night, one to be written off.
He said: “It was kind of a weird game for us where nothing went right, we didn’t play well and a few decisions went against us here and there.
“Now we have to react and show that we have a strong mentality. There will be ups and downs throughout the season and it’s about how we react.
“If we can come back and get a good win against Morton, we can move up a few places. That’s all we can do.
Caley Jags must find winning form
MacKay was on loan at Kilmarnock last season, who won the league title just two points clear of Arbroath, with ICT reaching the play-off final, where they lost to St Johnstone.
The wide midfielder insists, while the 2022/23 edition could also go to the wire, the Highland side must ensure they are in the mix for the title.
He said: “The championship is always tight. Last season, a single game decided the title race.
“The year before, when Hearts won it, it wasn’t as comfortable as people might have thought.
“It’s always a strong league and the teams will always look to be strong at home. We have to make sure we do that too.
“There are several good teams in the league, like Dundee and Partick, but there are always a few surprises. Morton finished well last season, Cove went up and Queen’s Park, which spent some money.
“It’s a good league to be in, but we have to make sure we’re on the right side by also being on the right side of the results.”
Team competition can advance the team
MacKay was one of six summer signings for Inverness and he thinks boss Billy Dodds, once the immediate injuries clear up, will be happy with his options.
He added: “The gaffer probably has two or three boys for each position, so he has a lot of options.
“We are a bit light in central midfield at the moment with Sean Welsh injured, but Lewis Hyde can substitute for example.
“We have centre-backs Danny Devine and Max Ram to return, while you have myself, Steven Boyd, Nathan Shaw and Austin Samuels who can all play wide.
“It’s really about trying to get everyone fit and keep everyone fit, we can perform well and win in different types of games throughout the season. That’s what can take you to the top of the whiteboard.
Much more to come from MacKay
MacKay’s lack of playing time since leaving Inverness for Hibs in May 2021 has led to his loan to Killie and now back to the club where he flourished most.
And he reckons the one-season ticket back north will once again lead to some fun on the pitch.
He said: “It has been good to come back to play after a year of not really playing.
“Fortunately, I came in before the start of the Premier Sports Cup and had a good run in the team.
“I started the season well, but there is a lot of improvement to come from me and the boys.
“It’s still close to the start of the season and you won’t be 100%, but I’m happy to be back and that’s the main thing for me.
“People say ‘it’s good to go home’, but it’s not. It’s more about getting back to playing and enjoying football again.
Already subscribed? Login
[Winger Daniel MacKay says Caley Thistle can show strength by bouncing back from Partick loss]