A REJUVENATION of Caley Thistle's fortunes at home has helped play a major role in putting Inverness right back in the race for the Division One title, according to manager Terry Butcher.
The Highland Capital club had yet to register a league win in four attempts at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium by mid-October last year.
That form, however, has since been turned on its head with Caley Thistle unbeaten on their own patch in their previous six Division One matches, while they also put Scottish Premier League side Motherwell out of the Scottish Cup at home last month.
Having only won four out of their previous 19 league games the season before in the SPL, home comforts have been in short supply.
But that at last appears to be changing and with successive matches in the Highland Capital against Queen of the South tomorrow and then Ayr United seven days later, Butcher is looking for his side to maintain their title push.
"It's amazing what confidence can do for a team," he stated. "We're playing well and scoring goals, so suddenly everyone is really looking forward to the next game. Our home results recently have been excellent. We have a wonderful record on the road, but now our form at home is slowly beginning to match it.
"The game against Partick Thistle at home last time out was a great example of how we have improved because we went a goal behind, yet we came back to win the game and that's the first time we've done that this season.
"Confidence within the squad is really high. All the boys are working hard and the focus for us now is trying to get six points from our next two matches as they would set us up nicely for the crucial months of March and April."
Tomorrow's opponents Queen of the South were the last team to win at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium when a Derek Holmes hat-trick gave them a 3-1 success in October last year.
Butcher now believes it is a different, and much improved, Caley Thistle side the Doonhamers will face in the Highland Capital.
"I have been saying since the campaign started that the team would get better the more the season went on," said Butcher, who has a fully fit squad to choose from tomorrow after both Lee Cox and Robert Eagle returned to training following injury. "However, I still believe there is more to come from the players.
"We had virtually a new side at the start of the season and it was always going to take us a little bit of time to find some rhythm.
"We also seem to have found a way that even when we don't play well, we still get the three points and that is a big factor, especially at this stage of the season."
The visit of Queen of the South will also mark the 50th game that Butcher and his assistant Maurice Malpas have been in charge at Caley Thistle since their arrival in January last year.
Despite Inverness failing in their valiant bid to remain in the SPL last season, Butcher is adamant he wants to look forward to future rather than reflect on what might have been ahead of this milestone.
"I don't really want to look back because there's a lot of pain there in terms of what happened last season," he added. "There have also been highs, but I think the most important thing is that we all look forward."
Meanwhile, Caley Thistle's postponed fixtures from earlier in the season against local rivals Ross County and Morton have been rearranged for next month.
Inverness will travel to Greenock on Tuesday 2nd March, before welcoming County to the Highland Capital on Tuesday 30th March - 10 days after they face each other in Dingwall.
* Caley Thistle have allowed left back Graeme Shinnie to join Highland League side Forres Mechanics on loan for a month. The youngster is the third player to be loaned out by Inverness this year with midfielder Gavin Morrison and striker Shane Sutherland currently playing first-team football at Division Three side Elgin City.