BILLY DODDS HOPING FOR A MIRACLE AS INVERNESS PREPARE TO FACE CELTIC IN THE SCOTTISH CUP
Billy Dodds declared Inverness "ready to go" for Saturday's Scottish Cup final even though they will have had more than four weeks without a match by the time the Hampden showdown with Celtic kicks off. The Highlanders have not played a competitive game since losing their final cinch Championship fixture at home to Ayr on May 5. That result cost them a crack at the play-offs and the squad were given nine days off before returning to training to focus on their bid to pull off a 'miracle' this weekend. "It's not been ideal and it has been a challenge but it's not been terrible," said boss Dodds, reflecting on the month-long gap between matches. "I would have loved to have been in the play-offs having top-notch games going into the final but it wasn't to be. "The bonus about it is we got a wee rest, got them back for three weeks, conditioned them - not that they needed it - had a couple of (bounce) games and a practice game (against Dungannon Swifts), so we're ready to go. It's not been ideal but it's not been terrible either."
Celtic match practice
While Inverness have been idle, opponents Celtic have continued playing matches, albeit generally not to the same standard that they had set for the bulk of the season. The Premiership champions - who will land a domestic treble if they secure the Scottish Cup on Saturday - won only two of their closing six league games, although they did finish their campaign with a 5-0 win over Aberdeen on Saturday. Asked if Celtic's recent form gave him optimism, Dodds said: "Did you watch the Aberdeen game at the weekend? "We respect every opponent, as we have done throughout this competition. We respected Livingston and Kilmarnock and we had to because they're Premiership teams but we have to focus on what we can do. "We're going to need a bit of luck, top-notch performances from my players, my goalkeeper to have a good day. But when I was at Queen of the South (as a coach) and we played Rangers in the (2008) Scottish Cup final we were 2-0 down at half-time (before coming back to 2-2 and then losing 3-2). "This competition's all about miracles and they do happen. We're going there with the mindset we can win the game." Inverness' best moment in their history came in 2015 when they won the Scottish Cup, and Dodds is hoping to repeat the feat eight years on. "I think people remember the fairytales," he said. "You just have to look downstairs and see all the boys on the wall when Inverness last won the cup. "I know it was against Falkirk but they beat Celtic in the semi-final. Things like that are always remembered, and rightly so. Any provincial club who wins a trophy, for example Ross County won the League Cup in 2016, it's got a right to be remembered."
Dodds has a full-strength squad to choose from with the exception of long-term absentees Shane Sutherland and Tom Walsh, and he already has a good idea what his starting XI will look like. "Because of the time off we've had, I've had plenty of time to think about how I'm going to try and nullify Celtic, because they are going to have a lot of the ball, but also try to be a threat as well," he said. "I've got to try and get that balance. I've got an idea of my team but you can never name it until the week's over in case you pick up an injury or two."
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