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Slump is not down to Hughes

New year, familiar problems.

It is a thought which has likely been resonating with the Inverness Caledonian Thistle squad as others have questioned the team's form during the early days of John Hughes' tenure in the Highlands. The former Hibernian manager has been criticised as Inverness stumbled to three defeats since he replaced Terry Butcher last month, although such indifferent form does mirror that endured under the Englishman this time last year.

It was a year ago that Butcher turned down the offer to take over at Championship club Barnsley to focus on an Inverness team which had been going from strength to strength, only for the same side to then falter in the league and cup competitions. Hughes would appear to have inherited a similar fate.

Inverness have dropped to fifth place in the SPFL Premiership table ahead of a match with Dundee United tomorrow but the spirit in Hughes' side remains high. "It has just been an unfortunate coincidence that the sticky spell has come just after the new manager has come in," said Gary Warren, the Inverness defender.

"We've been unlucky with injuries but the manager has settled quickly and he is getting his ideas across gradually. He wants to consolidate our place in the top six and then kick on from there. The players have enjoyed working for him.

"Hopefully, we can get ourselves on a bit of a run. It would be nice to build some momentum going into the big League Cup semi-final game [against Hearts next month]. But first we have to bounce back from the Ross County game and try to be as ruthless as we can."

United perhaps got a bit of a headstart in rediscovering their own threat when they fought back to draw with Hibernian last weekend. It was a result fostered by a last-minute equaliser and Jackie McNamara is hopeful that the Tannadice side will simply pick up where they left off in the Highlands tomorrow.

"It would be ideal if we could start as we finished against Hibs and take the game to them," said the United manager, who is expected to give loan signing Farid El Alagui his debut. "We showed good battling qualities against Hibs and in any game you would like to get on the front foot.

"That's what we hope to do and try to do the things we know we're good at. We did well to get the game back against Hibs but it's never ideal when you have to chase things. We know this will be a tough game against Inverness but it's one we're relishing for all the right reasons. They will want to try to get the ball down to play, like ourselves, so we will have to take our chances when they come our way."

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