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01.12.2007 @ 15:00 Tannadice Stadium, Dundee Attendance: 5845
Dundee Utd
0 - 1
Inverness CT
Referee: Iain Brines League-match

Goalscorers
None Ian Black (20)
Starting Lineup
Szamotulski
Flood
Kenneth
Dods
Robb
Kerr
Cameron
Gomis
D. Robertson
Wilkie
J. Robertson
Michael Fraser
Richard Hastings
Grant Munro
David Proctor
Phil McGuire
Roy McBain
Russell Duncan
Ian Black
John Rankin
Don Cowie
Marius Niculae
Substitutes
Russell
Don
Duff
Bauben
Pope
Milligan
McLean
Zbigniew Małkowski
Stuart McCaffrey
Guy Kerr
Barry Wilson
Iain Vigurs
Graham Bayne
Rory McAllister
Substitutions
Duff -> Robb (38)
Milligan -> Flood (79)
Russell -> J. Robertson (80)
Barry Wilson -> Richard Hastings (71)
Graham Bayne -> Marius Niculae (84)
Iain Vigurs -> John Rankin (90)
Yellow cards
Wilkie (65) None.
Red cards
None None.
Other statistics
12 Shots 9
4 Shots on goal 5
3 Offsides 0
6 Corner kicks 7
14 Free kicks 10
0 Penalties 0
Match report
Ian Black scored a goal that commentators called a candidate for goal of the season in the 19th minute and it was this goal that won the game for the Caley Jags.

ICT have now taken maximum points from their last couple of games and climb up another place in the table to 9th.

With spirits lifted after a hard fought win over St Mirren last week, Inverness Caledonian Thistle travelled to Tannadice to face an on form Dundee United yet to be beaten at home this season.

I was quietly confident that we would perform better this week after witnessing the team dig in and grind out the result against St Mirren…it’s not the prettiest football to watch, but it lifted the spirits to see an ICT team once again digging deep and playing for each other. I suspected that even with rumours aplenty in regards to player unrest that if we could keep it together on the park then we had a chance of taking something from the game and the 4/1 odds being offered by the bookies was too good to resist…lol.

An early start for me and my travel companions as we decided to avoid the hassle of the A9 and take the scenic route south to Dundee. The weather was looking a little bleak, but the sun could be seen shining in the distance. We really do have some wonderful countryside around here and the views of early snow on the hills made the journey far more worthwhile than a mindless jaunt along the main drag.

We arrived in Dundee in good time and a quick call to The Mantis confirmed the Dundee FC Social Club as the meeting point for a pre-match drink. Despite our early arrival, we weren’t the first and we were met by a few familiar faces. No sign of The Mantis though…his sending us here had obviously been a ploy to allow him to sneak of somewhere else!!!

After watching the rare sight of a referee giving a late penalty against Celtic we wandered up to Tannadice, grabbed a pie and met up with a few more site regulars…I would name them all, but they just get a big head and seeing their name in the despatches so I won’t bother….lol.

We took to our seats (ensuring the Immortal Howden Ender was well surrounded by moderators) and waited for the team to appear. We’d spent so much time gassing downstairs that we’d missed the squad call outs, but it became quickly apparent that the tactics for today were to be one up front. Not all that surprising, even though I had expected to see Brewster making an appearance.

The rest of the team seemed to line up to make the formation look like a 4-1-4-1, although as the game progressed it became apparent that the centre of the park remained very fluid, constantly adapting to the circumstances.

Even with a number of regulars missing Craig Levein seemed to have deployed some kind of ‘Chaos Theory Engine’ in his team selection and line-up with many players playing out of position, none more so than Lee Wilkie who had been placed (again) in the front line, just as he had been when Dundee Utd had visited us earlier in the season.

Inverness CT to kick things off in the middle, and the first forward ball was played nicely in to touch....well it would have been nice if this was a game of rugby. It had confused Dundee Utd though, as they immediately returned the favour and we were back in possession.

The first shot of the game came in the 2 minute mark when Niculae hit wide with a 25 yard effort and Rankin was next to have a pop but the ball went straight to the hands of Grzegorz Szamotulski.

Dundee Utd’s game plan didn’t take too long to work out as time and again they kept lobbing the ball in to Lee Wilkie. As a defender he can be a handful to deal with, but as a striker he seemed lost and it was obvious that he had no instinct with regards to which direction the goal was. Munro and McGuire were doing a good job of keeping him reined in and allowed him very little room to manoeuvre, which is a problem for a 6ft 4 lump of a man with the turning circle of a cargo ship...add to that his insistence on trying to go through instead of around everyone and he quickly started to clock up the fouls.

ICT had a great chance to go a goal up in the 16th minute when Dods fouled Ian Black just outside the box. Despite us having 2 men standing over the ball it was obvious Niculae was going to be the man to strike it. It was equally obvious that laying it off to Black who was standing unmarked to the left of the wall would have been the sensible option, but we never took it and Niculae drove the ball into the wall. This didn’t go down too well with Black and he left Niculae under no illusions as to his frustration.

It was 18 minutes in to the game before Dundee Utd recorded their first shot on target, but this did little to trouble Fraser who caught it comfortably. We then went on the immediate counter-attack with a ball played through to Niculae on the edge of the area, he stumbled over the ball as he tried to turn the defender, but it broke kindly to Ian Black who spotted Szamotulski off his line and took full advantage by lobbing him from 25+ yards out.

Dundee Utd 0 v 1 Inverness CT after 19 minutes

For the first time in a few weeks we were actually winning the midfield battles and this seemed to be building confidence in our back line that were pushing forward and keeping United at a safe distance from goal. Even on the odd occasion when they did break our midfield and get a cross in to the box, a more confident looking Michael Fraser was dealing with everything easily – whether that was punching the ball clear or safely collecting the ball from the air. Add to that the fact that his kicking was much improved from the previous week and his game looks like it is really starting to come together.

Neither team was doing much to test the keeper at either end, but ICT were holding on to the ball and passing well. Black, Rankin and Cowie were all taking turns at assisting Niculae with runs from the midfield and if I’m honest, he needed all the help he could get as he just doesn’t have the pace to play effectively as the lone striker.

The first substitution of the game came in the 37th minute when Stuart Duff replaced an injured Steven Robb.

The only other real action before the break came seconds before the whistle when Kenneth found himself with acres of space in the box, but he somehow managed to send his header wide of his mark to close off the half with ICT holding a one goal advantage.

The start of the second half was a little dull in comparison to the first 45 minutes and it wasn’t until 10 minutes in that we saw the first attempt on either of the goals. Duncan fouled Robertson 25 yards out but the resulting free-kick went harmlessly high over the goal and into the crowd.

Moments later Kenneth was again left unmarked in the box allowing him a free header, but yet again he was unable to take full advantage as he failed to get it on target. ICT would need to tighten up a bit more on these balls being played in to the area or we were in real danger of conceding a soft equaliser.

Lee Wilkie was still picking up the fouls as United had taken to playing the long-ball forward to him time after time in a bid to claw one back. We were beginning to wonder if the referee was aware of the persistent fouling laws when Wilkie eventually picked up a yellow card…ironically though it wasn’t for his constant barging or climbing over the heads of players…it wasn’t even for the way he’d taken to sitting like a little lost boy every time he landed on his butt…he had taken to whinging and found himself going into the book for dissent after mouthing to the ref when getting caught offside.

If I had been Levein I would have hooked him at this stage in the game as it was one of those situations where a player looks destined to get himself a second yellow, the decision to leave him on became a little less bizarre when it was pointed out to me that Wilkie was now facing a 2 match suspension for going over the points threshold so risking a second yellow by leaving him on wasn’t such a huge gamble.

Kenneth was to get his third chance at a free header in the 66th minute, but despite the hat trick of chances, he still couldn’t find the goal. The play that had led to this chance had, however, left Hastings stretched out on the sidelines having taken a knock to the head. He was making very little movement and at first it appeared that he was out cold…this wouldn’t have been surprising as I had heard the clonk from the stands. He was stretchered off and although I haven’t heard how he is I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a concussion.

A quick re-shuffle of the team with McBain dropping back to fill in for Hastings and Wilson came on to take his place on the left wing…his addition marking an instant upturn in our attacking play and a swing away from what might have been considered a period where United seemed to be having a slight advantage, and taking more of the possession.

Black and Rankin both had shots at goal, the second was spilled by Szamotulski but rolled wide for the first of what was to be 4 corners taken in quick succession, but we just couldn’t find that second goal to kill the game.

A double substitution and a slight team re-shuffle came around the 80 minute mark for Dundee Utd as the pushed another big centre half to the front line to join Wilkie. This was followed soon after by an ICT substitution…Niculae had worked hard and couldn’t be faltered for his effort, but as I said earlier, his pace let him down a bit in the lone striker role and despite being able to turn defenders with ease he just didn’t have enough to be chasing down the through ball and creating any real threat. He did have some nice lay-offs for the likes of Cowie, Rankin and Black, who were pushing out from midfield, and on another day we may have made more of those, but this wasn’t one of those days. For some reason Niculae decided he wanted to shake the refs hand as he was replaced by Graham Bayne who had missed last weeks game due to suspension and he showed a little more of what you would expect for the position he filled.

John Rankin had a shot saved from 12 yards when he failed to get any real power in to it, and at the other end it was Wilkie who was allowed space for the free header on this occasion, this time getting it on target, but failing to score as it was gathered by Michael Fraser. This marked the 90 minute point, but we knew we would see a further 3 or 4 minutes, at least, of injury time.

We decided to use the last of our substitutions and John Rankin made way for the youngster Iain Vigurs. The lad must have thought that Christmas was about to come early as he collected the ball on the right and caught sight of the goal from 25 yards. He managed to get plenty of pace on his shot, but was unfortunate to see it slide wide to the right.

That was to be the last real play in what ended up being 4 minutes of added time…something which seemed to upset the United dugout as the all started jumping around and pointing at their watches and creating a fuss.

The ICT team left the field under a well earned round of applause and I was off to the bookies to collect my winnings…if only Niculae had scored it would have been a good bit more…but perhaps I was asking just a little too much for one week!!!