GEORGE Oakley is desperate to get back into the Caley Thistle starting 11 and re-energise his time with the club.
Former Wimbledon man Oakley has played second fiddle to John Baird in recent months and understands why manager John Robertson has kept faith with a successful side.
However, that does not dim his frustration as he looks to do enough in brief substitute appearances to persuade his manager he deserves a chance.
Oakley has not started a game since the end of September in the 0-0 draw with Queen of the South. His goal from the bench against Brechin three weeks ago was his first in four months.
He came on for the final 25 minutes against Dumbarton on Saturday and had a couple of chances to score, including seeing one ruled out for offside.
Until he is given another opportunity in the start line-up, Oakley knows the onus is on him to make his mark from the bench.
“I’ve got to do what I can in the minutes I get. It’s hard to make an impact but that’s what I’ve got to do and I feel like I am. I’m coming at the end of the game near enough every time, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to get more starts under my belt,” said Oakley.
“It’s frustrating but you only want the team to do well. if the team is doing well without me playing, that’s all you need. If we keep getting points, that’s all that matters.
“In football, a lot goes on behind the scenes. As a player you want to play every game but the manager might see something different. Teams play different ways and you might be needed for one game. It’s frustrating only getting dribs and drabs here and there as you’ve got to prove yourself in that time. There’s no getting into a game.
“It was good to get the goal against Brechin and I nearly scored again today. I’ve got to build on that.”
The system the Caley Jags have found success with does not favour playing two strikers, with Oakley having to be content with a relief role for Baird at present.
At the start of the season, when Robertson was still working out his best side, he deployed a 4-4-2 and played the two front men together.
However, Inverness have flourished in the 4-3-3 they have played since that Queens game in September, with Connor Bell and Jake Mulraney flanking Baird.
There is healthy competition between the strikers, which Oakley has no problem with.
“We’re playing 4-3-3 and there’s only room for one striker. As long as I’m pushing people for their place it makes them play better,” he said.
“There’s competition between everyone and if I’m helping John by pushing him and he’s helping me by pushing me, then that’s good.”
Such is the tightness of the Championship, just five points separate Caley Thistle from Livingston in the final play-off place, albeit the Lions have two games in hand on them.
With the position Inverness are in – playing catch-up – it makes little difference what the performance was like, so long as another three points are in the bag.
Morton are the opponents next weekend and another obstacle in the club’s route to the play-offs.
We’re only five points from fourth – so hopefully by the new year we’ll be closer to where we want to be. One win takes you places you never thought you could go. Teams above you drop points and we gain them. Before you know it, you’re in the play-offs,” said Oakley.
“Defensively we’ve been great as everyone can see. We’re getting goals from everywhere but we need to finish teams off, instead of making it hard for ourselves, winning by the odd goal or nicking it in the last 10 minutes.
“It was a hard game – we had to dig in. They sat a lot of bodies behind the ball and we had to break them down.”