Dundee 1 v 2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
This was always liable to be a difficult fixture with Dundee having quietly cemented their position in the Premiership, beaten Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup and developed as a team under Paul Hartley. No mean feat for a team that was quite a few pundit’s favourite for instant re-relegation.
It seems signing David Clarkson was a masterstroke and this would only boost a side that was arguably the most impressive to visit Tulloch Caledonian Stadium this year. To win at Dens Park would surely be a telling win in a stellar campaign so far.
If Caley Thistle’s team selection ran along familiar lines, so did their approach to the game. It’s no surprise any more that the first real chance of the game fell to a central defender, Josh Meekings. Meekings now has a licence to go forward with Gary Warren and is revelling in the opportunity. Two goals to the good this season already and creating a chance a game on average, the big man from Bury St. Edmonds, who has grown from a boy at Caley Thistle battered a header off the bar after ten minutes or so.
The keeper beaten, converting that chance might have undone some of the angst created by Dundee scoring first. Greg Stewart swept the ball home in what was their first attack of the half, most of the game being confined to a narrow midfield that stifled most creative moves before they got going.
As John Hughes said: “I don't think it was a great game; two teams cancelling each other out. Although we weren't at it, I said at half-time we can go up a couple of gears. I know my players can pull it out the bag and you know what they say, if you're not playing too great, dig in and win, it's a sign that you are not a bad side.”
That second half burst into life after ten minutes, Billy Mckay equalising with a finish that could only be described as scruffy after the ball had ricocheted off him into the net. A predator’s goal, it brought Inverness right back into this as they waxed stronger.
When Mckay went off after seventy minutes, the game became defined by Hughes’ substitutions as Doran, Christie and Ross provided Inverness with a lacerating attacking edge.
The Boss noted: “They should be first-team regulars but the team's been on a good run, they train hard and you can see the talent the pair of them have and it won't be long before they are back in the starting eleven. They can score goals, they can link up, they combine and thankfully, in the last five minutes, they combined to get that goal."
He was referring to Christie’s deftest of touches that deflected a Watkins pass into the Dundee net on 88 minutes, a blow that Dundee would not and could not recover from. Had the equally impressive Doran converted his 45 yard attempt past Bain shortly afterwards, no one could really have complained.
All that was left was the analysis that Inverness had not played of their best on a patchy surface that ill-suited their passing game. In truth, a glance at the statistics showed that they bettered Dundee all over the park. “I'm delighted with the three points”, said John Hughes at the end.
For me, it's December and January that tells you where you're going to finish. On this evidence, that could be as high as you like and I’ll tell you what John – it’s not too bad for a first year’s work. Not too bad at all.
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