It's another rehearsal for the league cup semi-final as Inverness travel to the capital to take on struggling Hearts. The Edinburgh club have been nothing short of whipping boys recently with Celtic putting seven past the young Jambos and Dundee United adding four last weekend.
I doubt for a minute that Inverness will find the task quite as easy, but the confidence must be sapping from the young side, asked to take the strain in the SPFL, starting fifteen points adrift after administration woes put the future of the club at risk. To add more misery to the capital side, Ryan Stevenson has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring tear.
John Hughes first game in charge ended in a tough no scoring draw at Paisley, Dean Brill ensuring the new gaffer took at least one point back up the A9 with a string of fine saves. That's four clean sheets in a row for the man keeping Ryan Esson on the bench.
While Inverness were at Paisley, Hearts succumbed to a rampant Arab side who are gathering a bit of momentum with a series of high scoring results. However, Hearts did compound the critics with a 3-1 win at Pittodrie a month ago, only their third win of the season and their second over Aberdeen.
But that's enough from me, AJS has this preview for you before the trip to Tynecastle....................
Inverness travel down to the nations capital to pay basement boys Hearts a visit, with John Hughes taking to the dugout for the first time as our new boss. Yogi watched his side play out a tentative 0-0 draw in Paisley from the stands and will have had another week to tweak things to his way of liking, without "changing things too much".
Hearts will be looking to add some much needed points and goals to their stats as they face the worrying prospect of hitting the festive period still stuck on minus points. December has been a wretched month for the Jam Tarts having haemorrhaged 11 goals in just 2 games as well as going into the upcoming fixture missing several key players, including Ryan Stevenson and Jason Holt who have been influential players for Gary Locke's youthful side. ICT go into the game with a near fully fit squad, James Vincent remaining the only absentee as he recovers from long term injury, but he is on the recovery trail and has been given the go-ahead to up his training..
Between the sides this season Inverness were the victors when Hearts travelled north at the beginning of the campaign, with Billy McKay netting a well taken first half double. He was denied a hat trick when his penalty was well saved by Jamie MacDonald. Meetings at Tynecastle last season dished up much entertainment, 9 goals served up and also ICT taking good results in both encounters. The first was an early meeting in the season with Hearts racing into a 2-0 lead and ICT also losing Richie Foran to a red card before half time, but our new look side bravely battled back. Andy Shinnie netted a spot kick to reduce the deficit and with time almost up a lovely exchange of play between Billy McKay and Graeme Shinnie saw the latter cut the ball back to a fresh faced, delirious youngster in Conor Pepper who clipped the ball high into the net to send the fans behind the goal into raptures and the players into delight as they had rescued what seemed an impossible result.
The cup semi final against the Jam Tarts was heartbreaking, we will just leave it at that. But it sent us out on a revenge mission later the same month and we went to Tynecastle and took 3 points home. Gary Warren of all people netted a double with a couple of bullet headers, either side of Billy McKay scoring a goal. Webster and Holt were on the score sheet for Hearts but it wasn't enough and it was a hard fought and well taken result. Emphasising the grit and hard working nature of our side.
Its the kind of grit and work ethic that will be needed at Tynecastle. Hearts may have a youthful side but they have shown despite recent results that they have grit themselves and during what is a real struggle for the club they are doing their best to dig themselves out of a real hole with next to no resources. Despite the lack of players on paper I'm sure Gary Locke will have them well fired up and its important we don't take it lightly. As for ourselves John Hughes has stated he won't tinker too much and hopefully he will stick to that. Our results in the last month have been terrific and I'm hoping that with him in the dugout on Saturday the players it will give the players an extra boost to go out and give their all and hopefully come away with a top result and performance.
Tynecastle itself is a thoroughly enjoyable venue. One of my favourite grounds to visit. Good view, good fans and overall a great day out. Hoping to see a good support there tomorrow and for the 3 points to be heading back up the A9.
AJS's prediction - Hoping our defence will stay solid and come away with a clean sheet. While up top we show the class we have shown throughout the campaign - I'm going for a 2-0 win.