Kilmarnock 1 v 2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Inverness made the long trek to Rugby Park buoyed after a two wins in a row against Ross County and St. Mirren. Travelling to their farthest flung rivals in the SPFL premiership was difficult enough, without the added complications of January’s traditionally wild weather and Rugby Park’s synthetic pitch. If there had been a measure of trepidation beforehand, who could have blamed them.
Such is Caley thistle’s form right now, they rightly fear no one and in fact made the possible challenges into positives all round. The synthetic pitch, for instance is moaned about by die-hards claiming that football is a game to be played on grass. This is fine if you live in southern climes where luscious greenery is a year round norm, but not in the north where pitches are reduced to quagmires more apt for digging trenches in.
You certainly couldn’t contemplate a passing game on grass at this time of year, so playing on a surface that suits their game is a bonus to caley Thistle right now, rather than a reason to girn. Pass the ball they did, and long before Killie’s second half penalty put them ahead Inverness looked the side more likely to prevail. David Raven’s challenge to bring down McGinnis looked likely to prompt a red card from the moment it was launched and the full back was on his disconsolate way before referee Robertson had found the card in his back pocket. He was almost instantly relieved as Brill so nearly got to the excellent Eremenko’s penalty kick.
Thereafter, Caley Thistle seemed to light the blue touch paper and Killie obligingly stood well back. McGinnis missed a chance, jaw dropping in its simplicity that would surely have taken the game beyond Inverness and Manager Allan Johnstone substituted crowd favourite Eremenko. Both were treated with outrage from the Kilmarnock faithful as Inverness hit their stride and Billy Mckay scored two of the best goals you will see in the SPFL all year. As Chic Young waxed lyrical about his Gascoignesque lob over the defender at the first, Mckay slotted the finish beyond Samson. His second was a tale of individual determination and skill, interrupted only by a flash of utter genius by Nick Ross.
John Hughes was as happy as a sand man after this result; "It took us going down to 10 men and losing a goal to give us that intensity in our game," he suggested. “But throughout the match I thought we dominated the game, but we lacked that killer instinct in the final third during the first half. The whole game changed on the sending off. They got their goal and it gave us the impetus to get on the front foot." Of Mackay, he was unstinting; “When you've got Billy McKay on the park, you've always got the chance of scoring goals and he came up with two wonderful strikes," he said. "I had a great smile on my face at the start of the season when one or two people were knocking him for not scoring goals. I always said he would get well into double figures and that's him now on nine and long may that continue."
Continuing that sparkling form at Dundee United and then against St. Johnstone could see Caley Thistle in a position that would go a long way to transforming a top six finish into something truly special. They need your support to do it though, and you would be welcome to come along and give it, either in Dundee or at Tulloch Caledonian stadium on Tuesday. Either way, come along and raise the roof for these boys. They deserve it.
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