St Mirren 1 v 2 Inverness CT
It’s one of the great privileges of writing this column that it doesn’t have to be churned out straight after the game [That's changing soon - Ed], when perceptions can be clouded by what has only just happened and what you write is in isolation. I’m lucky. I can read what others have written, digest that and then formulate a view that takes it all into consideration. This week, we have considered that a Scottish media love fest for Caley Thistle finally started...and on Valentine’s Day of all days..!
New St. Mirren Park is a happy place for Inverness, and one that the players genuinely seem to like playing at. The facilities, pitch and infrastructure like the indoor football dome outside are aspirational and the place welcoming. So it proved on Saturday as what the BBC’s Jonathan Sutherland refered to as the Caley Thistle “juggernaut” rolled into town.
If it is a juggernaut, it started with the speed and finesse of a finely tuned Ferrari as the side, with Ryan Christie starting in place of James Vincent, simply blew St. Mirren away. Greg Tansey dispatched an acute Graeme Shinnie cutback with an arrow finish past Ridgers before four minutes had elapsed and the Ferrari roared into top gear.
John Hughes, happy to see his team draw level with Aberdeen, rued his team’s lack of a ruthless cutting edge though. He said: “Our first-half performance was exquisite, but the game should have been over at half-time had we taken our chances.” He wasn’t wrong, and even the normally lugubrious Gary Warren was quoted as saying that Inverness “should have been four or five up” by half time. Such was the ferocity of the Inverness attack that St. Mirren’s defence looked powerless to react, never mind counter it as Inverness created chance after chance.
Therein lies the rub. Caley Thistle tend (especially away from Home) to tear into oppositions with such intensity and tempo that maintaining it for ninety minutes is nigh on impossible. Add that to the fact that especially away from home, those oppositions feel obliged to attack at the outset and there is a recipe for getting in behind them. It’s happening again and again and it’s almost impossible to play against.
Invariably, those sides stiffen the midfield after half time inquests that can only be imagined and things become tougher for Caley Thistle. To be fair that only happened at St. Mirren after a sublime second for the Caley Jags that was a joy to watch.
The resurgent Nick Ross, after sitting out a fair portion of the season thus far on the bench is showing the midfield mastery he is capable of. His close control is a joy, and is being used to the full in those tight triangles that Inverness use with devastating effect to play through the opposition. His sublime flick in front of David Raven was judged to perfection, and the full back ran on to it as Naismith failed to get there on time. He had left a gaping hole in the St. Mirren rearguard that was rapidly filled by Ryan Christie, the pass was made and a sweeping finish dispatched beyond Ridgers. That a crestfallen Saints scored through Jim Goodwin’s crashing header was a sideshow in reality as Inverness finished the game with the majority of the possession, the better chances and all of the points.
It was, if you are of a blue and red persuasion, wonderful to watch and the reviews reflected that:
“Caley continued to look like they could have played with a cigar in one hand and a malt in the other such was the consummate ease they bossed every area against a dismal Paisley outfit” (Scotsman),
“Confidence is brimming throughout Caley Thistle, easily one of the most entertaining teams in the top flight and unbeaten in eight games so far in 2015 – seven of them victories” (Daily Record)
“The race is well and truly on second place in the Premiership as Inverness stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches and drew level on points with second top Aberdeen” (Herald)
Indeed that race is developing into a fascinating three way slugging match that will see Celtic, Aberdeen and Caley Thistle battle out the top places in the Premiership. There are, however, crucial battles to come and the home and away matches with Dundee United (starting next Tuesday) and away to Aberdeen (early April) could prove pivotal. Let’s not look too far ahead though and just enjoy, for the moment, being the best team in the land.
|All our latest videos at youtube.com/officialict||Photos by CaleyJags.com||Report by Davie Balfour|