Published: 22/03/2011 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 08:45

Double injury blow for Caley Thistle

CALEY Thistle may have to do without the services of Graeme Shinnie for the remainder of the season, while fellow youngster Nick Ross has been struck down by a virus.

Inverness manager Terry Butcher had to leave Ross out of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Dundee United because of illness and he also withdrew the 19-year-old from the Scotland under-21 squad ahead of their friendly in Belgium on Thursday.

Butcher remains hopeful Ross can use the international break to get himself back to full fitness, but at this stage he would have to be considered doubtful ahead of Caley Thistle's forthcoming Scottish Premier League game at home to Celtic next month.

Shinnie has been sidelined since last month after undergoing hospital treatment for a stomach problem - the 19-year-old played 22 consecutive games for Caley Thistle between September and February, but Butcher told the Courier he was reluctant to rush him back.

"Nick hasn't been well," Butcher said. "He was exhausted after the Scottish Cup tie against Celtic due to a virus and was very poorly.

"Unfortunately, he also had to pull out of the Scotland under-21 squad, which is a real pity.

"The poor lad has had a lot of football this season, but he's had this viral thing for a while now.

"Hopefully, along with one or two of the boys, the break will give him the chance to recharge his batteries and mean he's ready to face Celtic.

"Graeme was there at the Celtic game and it was great to see him. He's lost a bit of weight after being in hospital, but he's recovering and I know he's desperate to get back involved. However, we have to be extremely careful with him. It's important that when he does come back he is right.

"It could be the case that he misses the rest of the season to make sure he's right for the next campaign, but it could be that if we feel happy then he may feature before the season finishes, we'll just have to see."

Shinnie's absence has seen Stuart Duff, David Proctor and most recently Grant Munro all filling in as makeshift left-backs.

Butcher, however, now has Kenny Gillet, who started the season on the left of the back four, available again following a seven month lay-off after damaging his knee at Hibs last September.

The 25-year-old Frenchman made his comeback as a second half sub at Tannadice and impressed Butcher sufficiently to suggest he may start the match against Celtic on Saturday 2nd April.

"It was lovely to see him back," said Butcher. "We have missed him.

"If anything, this break has come at the wrong time for Kenny, but he made a big impact when coming off the bench against Dundee United.

"We have had to chop and change in both full-back positions this season, but with Kenny back we now have someone who is a natural on the left and he is certainly in contention to face Celtic."

Meanwhile, Butcher believes Caley Thistle need only to look back 12 months to find inspiration as they prepare to mount one final push for top six football after next month's league split.

Inverness hopes of finishing the campaign in the upper half of the table were dealt a blow at Dundee United, but they still remain very much in the hunt with three games to go.

The doubters may be questioning if Caley Thistle have what it takes to reach the top six, yet they were in a similar position a year ago when they squandered a two-goal lead at Dundee to draw 2-2 - a result some believed would deprive them of the Scottish First Division title.

Inverness, however, responded by going on a 12-match unbeaten run to make a swift return to the SPL at Dundee's expense and Butcher is not worried that his side currently find themselves having to make up ground ahead of their remaining pre-split games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Hearts.

"We've shown already that we can compete against these teams," said Butcher, who has given his players some time off before returning to training on Thursday.

"It certainly doesn't worry us that we are currently in seventh place. Last year, we found ourselves in the chasing pack and we still achieved what we set out to do, so it shows the players are capable and we will certainly give it a right good go in the games we have left."

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