Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 v 0 Raith Rovers
The headline writers have had a great time with this result. “No singing in the streets of Raith this year”, “Caley Thistle are saved by Devine Intervention” etc. Whatever the wordsmiths conjure up the fact is that Inverness will grace the stage at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final for the first time since 2004 against either Celtic or Dundee United.
A Danny Devine header at the back post from a Greg Tansey corner in 63 minutes assured all of this, in a match that the home side dominated from start to finish.
The game started with a pattern of incessant passing from the home side and incessant defending from the visitors that would last throughout the ninety minutes. At twenty shots on goal against two and with over sixty percent of possession, the statistics don’t lie – Inverness won this tie relatively easily. Watkins, Ofere and Shinnie were all afforded opportunities to score that they might have done better with and the big Nigerian looked especially keen to add to his debut counter against Motherwell. His new boss said: "In the first half we were very good and a little bit unlucky to come in having not scored a few goals. It's all about winning the game, we knew what the prize was - a semi-final at Hampden”
The second half reinforced that, beginning with a miss by Watkins close in that he professed himself to be “raging” at afterwards. He wasn’t helped by a fiery pitch that is showing inevitable signs of being abused badly by another highland winter and had been rescued from being submerged just a few days before. However Danny Devine, deputising for the suspended Warren, helped him out in 63 minutes as he nodded Tansey’s deep ball to the back post past the Raith keeper.
If that should have prompted a fight back from Rovers, it didn’t – their hands were full just containing Caley as they continued to press. Again Hughes was philosophical: "I said to them after the match 'you deserve that'. Not for tonight's performance but from the minute they came in in pre-season, the way they all came back in shape - that's them getting their rewards. In the second half we weren't quite at it but we certainly did enough to win the game. We're grateful that the goal came because this club deserves to be in a semi-final. It's great for the highlands, great for the club, and I'm delighted for the board and the chairman because they've backed us and I know the financial rewards for getting to a semi-final."
And so Inverness progress. They will put no emphasis on omens such as the sheer volume of teams that, having beaten Raith in the cup go on to win it. John Hughes will look no further than the semi, but must be bouncing at the prospect of meeting either of two teams that he’s previously mentored. He’s now got useful additions in Ofere and Kink, who did enough to suggest that he can play a bit in his cameo appearance. I won’t bet against the Caley Jags this year, that’s for sure.
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