Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Clydesadale Bank Premier League
After the narrowest of defeats against Kilmarnock on Saturday, Inverness entertain visitors Dunfermline in this crucial SPL relegation counter. Inverness approach this game 8 points ahead of their opponents and two places above them in the League. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Pars are staring down the barrel of a gun – the right combination of results in favour of Inverness and Hibernian over the next seven days will see them return to the SFL after only one season in the top division.
Meeting a team scrapping for it’s very survival, as Dunfermline are, is a dangerous business at this time in any season, but especially so in this one which has seen Inverness reel from injuries, bad luck, inconsistency and suspensions. It will be the same again against the Pars after Hayes sending off for two yellow card offences in the Killie game, and looking like he was at last returning to something resembling his best form. At least Terry Butcher has become used to shuffling his ever changing pack this year, but he must feel like a poker player with the worst hand in the world this year. At least he has Aaron Doran as a replacement for the mercurial Hayes, but Inverness must wish that they could at last field a side approaching their best that could finally put this relegation battle to rest. That thought might just be closer to realisation as Butcher considers the return of Andrew Shinnie, our major goal threat before being sidelined with a metatarsal fracture.
Dunfermline, on the other hand come into the fixture sporting the only win for either side in the last five games. Galvanised by Jim Jeffries, they will be steeped in fight and grit by the time this game kicks off but it says everything about their season that that win pointed out above over Aberdeen was their first home result of the season. Too little, too late, but you never know according to Jeffries: ''I have been in the game long enough to realise that something happens every week. There are always twists and turns, whether it be at the top or the bottom. I think that will continue right to the end and hopefully it keeps turning in our favour”.
The most important player for inverness could well be the “twelfth man” that is the Inverness support. "I want everyone to come along on Wednesday because your club needs you," said Butcher, who conceded after the home loss to the Dons that his side owed the home support a performance. "The fans need to make it as noisy and as loud as possible. I want them to cheer the boys on and get right behind the team. "We need them now more than ever, so on Wednesday I hope we can get a really good crowd in and there’s a real buzz about the place. “It’s a game everyone can affect and I’m sure the players would respond greatly to the supporters making plenty of noise."
As anyone connected with the Club will realise, one voice that will not be raised in support is that of John MacDonald of Milngavie, who collapsed and died during the game on Saturday. The players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect and Inverness are pressing the SPL to be permitted to observe a minute’s silence before the game. Farewell John and we hope that Inverness will do you proud tonight.
Preview by: Davie Balfour