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Inverness back in the Highlands to scale league heights

There is a good chance that Partick Thistle will turn up for a game of football in the Highlands this afternoon only to first play gooseberry.

The Glasgow side are the unfortunate third party for Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first home fixture since they appeared in the Scottish League Cup final. The pain of defeat by Aberdeen on penalties has dissipated a little over the past week and today is intended as an opportunity for supporters to welcome back their side. There will be no open-top bus, of course, simply the open plan of the Caledonian Stadium.

That will be enough should the Highland side register a win - a first at home under manager John Hughes - and maintain an ambition of finishing the season among the European places. Both Aberdeen and Motherwell are just nine points ahead.

"We have always focused on the league. That's where the club's greatest ambition lies at the start of the season," said Russell Latapy, the Inverness assistant manager. "Having Partick at home is an opportunity to show the fans what we have shown them all season - the desire to win football matches and do well for them.

"I think it is also a good opportunity for both parties, the playing staff and the fans, to show appreciation for each other. The fans came out in numbers to show support for the team in the cup final; now they will know our ambition is to get higher up the league."

That intention is being challenged first by insufficient form; a winless run at home under Hughes having been exacerbated by top scorer Billy McKay failing to get a goal in five matches. These statistics can be a source of encouragement for Thistle, even if they did not quite realise it yesterday.

"I didn't realise Inverness hadn't had a home win under John Hughes. You've got me flustered now," said Stephen O'Donnell, the Thistle defender. "Sometimes these things happen. We hadn't had a home win for 10 months. It can be harder to play in front of your own crowd as there's a lot more pressure on you to go and play."

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