Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0 v 0 Dundee
This was an intriguing fixture so early in the season, with Dundee providing the second newly promoted opposition in a week. After a bright opening against Hamilton- the first of these sides, how would Inverness fare?
There was the added intrigue of Dundee being managed by Paul Hartley, who had been connected with the managers vacancy at Inverness after Terry Butchers ill-fated departure. Whereas Hamilton had retained the nucleus of their Championship side, Dundee had recruited from far and near. It was a genuinely unpredictable game for spectator and pundit alike.
If the build-up was unpredictable, it became rapidly obvious that both sides had adopted an almost identical shape and philosophy of keeping the ball on the deck, passing and possession. The result was, of course, that both sides cancelled each other out. If that sounds slightly boring, it wasn’t.
Greg Tansey again provided the fulcrum for Inverness, shuttling around the midfield to collect the ball and release people. He generally succeeded. The strike force of Mckay and Christie found themselves closely marshalled by a Dundee defence not prone to the mistakes that Inverness profited from on Saturday, but still created when they were given half a chance. It’s not to say there was no long ball – Ross Draper gave Letheren an almighty fright after ten minutes with a vicious shot from all of forty yards that landed on the roof of the net.
Draper deserves mention here - for the entire game he harried, fetched, carried and burst past players with a pace he is given little credit for. He is massively effective in that midfield role, allowing Tansey the time and space to dictate and Raven and Shinnie to drive forward.
The second half saw a change in fifty minutes, as the emphasis switched from breaking Dundee down to pushing on to create a winning platform. Marley Watkins replaced James Vincent and immediately injected even more pace and directness to the front line. Always looking for the ball, he caused panic in the dark blue defence every time he charged at them.
Again, chances were created and Warren (twice) and Shinnie might have been rewarded with goals on another night. Doran made a similarly effective contribution when he appeared and it must be difficult for Hughes to keep these two on the bench but they both have the ability to turn the course of a game when they come on – especially against sides already softened up by Draper, Vincent and co.
The only downside to this game plan - and it reared its head in this game, is that Caley Thistle can get frustrated and overanxious if they don’t get to a winning position, especially at home. It will only take a home win to change that. As that anxiety showed, Dundee suddenly sparked to life as the speedy Boyle was introduced to the game and created a couple of chances. None were taken.
A draw was a fair reflection of play in the end and on this evidence Dundee will prove an awkward addition to this league for a lot of teams. They have recruited wisely and play in a style suited to the Premiership, so a draw with them is no bad thing. A league that contained no mugs just got a bit harder as we roll onwards to Motherwell on Saturday, second top of the pile.
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