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Goalkeeper Ridgers desperate to help Inverness Caledonian Thistle qualify for Premier Sports Cup knockout rounds

By Alasdair Fraser

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Mark Ridgers is determined to help break Caley Thistle’s dismal run of four League Cup group stage qualifying failures.

The goalkeeper is yet to taste the tournament’s knockout stages, with the club having last made it through in season 2016/17, the year before he joined his hometown team.

The then Premiership outfit, beaten finalists in 2014, navigated a group containing Dundee United, Dunfermline, Cowdenbeath and Arbroath, but were scalped by Alloa in the knockouts.

Relegated under Richie Foran that year, the poor track record since has featured a humbling by Falkirk, a goal difference exit to Hearts, a second-place finish to Dundee and last season’s third place disappointment after struggles against Hearts, Raith, and Cowdenbeath.

Ridgers accepts the group games must be treated in part as preparation for the Championship campaign, but stressed: “The League Cup is not a trophy we want to take lightly.

Mark Ridgers, in top form here in cup action back in 2019, craves League Cup progress this season. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Mark Ridgers, in top form here in cup action back in 2019, craves League Cup progress this season. Picture: Ken Macpherson

“Some teams treat the groups purely as pre-season, others approach it more seriously than that. I feel we have a squad now with the capabilities to go and get ourselves out of the group for the first time in four years. Even taking account of the League Cup’s importance in its own right, you want to build a good winning run and a bit of positive momentum before the league kicks off.

“Ultimately, we want to get ready for July 31, but as far as we’re concerned the season starts this coming Tuesday night when we play Peterhead.

“We want to build positive results and head into the league season with a few wins behind us.”

Caley Thistle, who must also overcome top seeds Hearts, have met the Buchan club five times since formation, with four wins but a disappointing scoreless draw at Balmoor Stadium last time out in the same competition in July 2019.

Peterhead won the bonus point in an 11-10 penalty shootout win, with Ridgers missing their final kick.

“It’s one to forget for me, as I missed my penalty, but we know how difficult Tuesday’s game will be – we’ve drawn with lower league sides at this stage before,” the 30-year-old said.

“For these guys, there is always a real incentive to step up to play us, but those are the occasions when we have to show why we’re a full time Championship club.

“We need to give them the respect they’re due, but go and do a job as well. If we can win these so-called lesser games, it will give us a good opportunity to get out of the group and into the knockout stages.”

Ridgers is enthused by Billy Dodds’ signings so far, with experienced attackers Billy Mckay and Michael Gardyne arriving from Ross County, to join striker Manny Duku, young Norwich loanee midfielder Reece McAlear, and returning winger Tom Walsh.

“It’s looking good, but we probably need another experienced defender,” he added.

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