Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 v 1 St Johnstone
Making hay whilst the sun shines. Never was a saying as true as it has been about Inverness this season. John Hughes must have a spring in his step every time he wakes up and sees the sun shining and the sprinklers watering the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium pitch.
His well kent philosophy of passing and retaining possession is beginning to pay more dividends, and there is a sense that a quiet revolution is taking place in this part of the Highlands.
St. Johnstone are visitors that always provide stiff opposition in these parts. Compact, gritty and well organised, they can be impossible to break down. They may be less offensive than of late, having lost May and MacLean but they are a quality side.
The first half proved a classic illustration of the point. With Shinnie, Draper and Christie restored to the starting eleven, Inverness started in familiar shape. Interpassing and exchanging, they dragged St. Johnstone around, like a boxer softening up his opponent.
Sure they created chances, but the aim looked to be to probe, create openings, sense weaknesses. John Hughes hinted at this; "We're really calculated in everything we do at Inverness and that was evident today, everyone gets a touch, we move teams around well and we had good ball retention."
Gone are the days of Butcher led high octane football, harrying and hassling oppositions. In truth it was a pressing game that led to chance after chance created for Billy Mckay, but it could equally backfire in running out of energy in the last half hour.
That Mckay occasionally cuts a frustrated figure at the moment is testament to this – he’s learning as are those around him. Aaron Doran, in his post-match interview was clear on this; “it’s the final pass sometimes. It’s just missing by inches, but when we connect, someone’s going to catch a few goals from us.” You can bet your bottom dollar Mckay will be part of that.
The Second half continued the theme until the pressure became too much for St. Johnstone on 61 minutes. A sweeping interchange from Watkins and Doran, which took the two fully 60 yards upfield resulted in Watkins arrowing a precision finish past Mannus.
As that punch landed, Inverness sensed a knock out and 5 minutes later they delivered it through Ryan Christie. Doran somehow engineered possession near the corner and a deft flick from Shinnie allowed a finish that skipped past the saints’ defence.
It could and should have been all over by then, but Brian Graham looped a header from nowhere past a fairly enraged Dean Brill to ensure a tighter last ten minutes than was really needed but Inverness had done enough and finished worthy victors.
“We created enough chances, but then you wonder. We put a lot into the game on Tuesday night at Rangers and we had to make sure we got it right with the changes. But eventually when it came it was a great goal. Marley Watkins deserves that” said Hughes.
"Credit to St Johnstone, for the last 15 minutes we were hanging in there. There's never much between the teams, but it was just a matter of getting the second goal."
Top of the league, playing great football in a welcoming and largely easy-going atmosphere it’s as good a place as any in Britain to come and watch the beautiful game, reacquaint yourself with it or tag along with the bairns to give them a great wee day out. Just make sure you’re doing it whilst the sun still shines..!!
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