Football Expert & Columnist
Inverness CT have Europa League fate in own hands, says Andy Walker
Andy Walker assesses Inverness CT's chances of securing Europa League football for next season.
Last Updated: 14/05/13 2:01pm
However, they know there's still one last effort to be made to achieve their goal of securing entry into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League by taking all three points against their Highland neighbours Ross County in Sunday's final SPL match of the season, live on Sky.
In all honesty, it should already be secured for Terry Butcher's men but with just 90 minutes of the league season left to play, they know that St Johnstone also have a chance if they can edge past Motherwell.
Last week, Caley Thistle missed a host of chances at home to Dundee Utd - including a penalty - meaning nerves will play a big part in this tense Highland derby.
I have no doubt Terry Butcher appreciates that their destiny is still very much in their own hands but he knows his players will have to quickly overcome last week's disappointment to focus on one last crack at glory.
In my view, finishing in the top half of the table is a success for Caley Thistle but they must know they now have an opportunity to ensure their efforts over the course of the season can be remembered for a long time.
It won't be easy against a Ross County side that have also punched above their weight this season. Both Highland clubs have been an absolute credit to themselves and the SPL.
Butcher and Derek Adams have shown that good management doesn't necessarily mean having to spend big sums of money to achieve success. A team ethic of hard work runs through each squad where so much emphasis is placed on what they can achieve together.
It's a measure of how far Caley Thistle have come that they have managed to win at both Celtic Park and Ibrox this season. To beat the SPL champions on their own patch takes a lot of courage, skill and ability - qualities they have in abundance.
Even allowing for the fact that Rangers found themselves in the bottom tier of Scottish football this season, they still have a wage bill second only to Celtic and yet Inverness Caley Thistle won as comfortably as the 3-0 scoreline suggests in the League cup.
However, what happened in the League Cup semi-final should serve as a timely reminder of how cruel football can be. Going into the tie at Easter Road against Hearts as favourites, Caley Thistle were again the better side but after passing up glorious chances to score, Hearts won in a dramatic penalty shootout.
They certainly won't get it easy against their near neighbours who love nothing better than coming out on top in a local contest. Matches this season have been exciting, close contests with plenty of goals and needle.
Adams is likely to be without the influence of his captain Richard Brittain after he picked up a serious knee injury last Sunday in County's 2-0 defeat to Motherwell at Fir Park.
It was a defeat that ended Adams' hopes of going into this game with European hopes of their own but a fourth-place finish for the side with the lowest budget in the SPL would be astonishing.