Rangers 1 v 0 Inverness CT
A competition that brought so much to Inverness last year has ended after a narrow defeat at Ibrox. Disappointment was etched on the faces of everyone of a highland persuasion on the final whistle, perhaps because they didn’t want to let go of their finest hour but they must now reflect on how it slipped away.
John Hughes alluded to this post-match – “Getting to the cup final last year brought a great pride and sense of excitement to the club," said the manager. “I'm disappointed to lose the match but not in terms of the way we played. One goal wins the game and it could have fallen to us on another day”. That, in terms of the bare bones of it was true.
A game of few chances turned on a claim for handball that distracted Inverness long enough for MacLeod to shoot at goal, a shot that the impressive Dean Brill appeared to have covered. What he couldn’t legislate for was the ball spinning off Josh Meekings and past him and all that was left was for him to look as horrified as every other Caley Jags fan in the 15,208 crowd.
Inverness played well enough in their now customary style and must have believed that their passing would eventually move Rangers around enough to create openings. That happened, but chances for Mckay and Watkins were of the half-if-that variety and even when Gary Warren eventually counted with a trademark header he was offside. Again, Hughes pointed to this: "I thought we played some lovely stuff. One or two chances fell to Billy Mckay and Ian Black got one off the line so that wee bit of luck is deserting us at this moment”. That Black was still participating with his late but crucial clearance was a matter of some fortune, both of Ranger’s yellow cards could easily have been of another hue.
In the end, the noisy and exuberant few hundred fans that had made the journey to Glasgow trooped away quietly but they still have much to look forward to this season: "Football's a strange old game. One minute you're up, the next minute you're down," said Hughes. "It's never a sprint, it's a marathon. Our remit is to get as many points as we can to stay in the Premiership”. That’s something his side will accomplish easily enough this year and then who knows? There will be better days than this, and they start with St. Johnstone on Saturday.
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