Now that the dust has settled on Inverness’s first home game of the season, you might have thought that some kind of rational response to the final score was possible. Not a bit of it – hours later there is still utter disbelief at the outcome, the way the game unfolded and the way that lady luck got up, packed her bags and left somewhere around half time.
At kick off, things were so very different. Tulloch Caledonian stadium looked resplendent, bathed in sunshine and hosting 3 800 fans looking forward to a new era for ICT. The small band of Hibs fans in the South stand were also looking forward for a chance to finally lay the ghost of an abysmal record in the highlands. The game started nervously for both sides, stray passes and miscontrolled touches evident at both ends. Not a surprise, it was obvious that there was a real familiarisation process going on, especially in the ICT ranks. Good early running saw Gregory Tade adjudged offside in 4 minutes, but his pace and appetite were to cause Hibs problems all day. Jonny Hayes was likewise full of running, and there were flashes of both his electrifying pace and the robust defending that it inspires. And yet Hibs started more brightly, Ivan Sproule having and missing the first real chance of the game, after good defending from Gillet. Tade was continuing to threaten and in 12 minutes, went down under a challenge from Murray in the box that drew an audible intake of breath from the Hibs contingent. That Mr. Conroy didn’t award the penalty seemed to hinge on Tade not making a meal of going down, but it galvanised Hibs into testing player of the year Ryan Esson. After a superb save from Stevenson, O’Connor battered the ball off Esson’s face in 25 minutes. After establishing that his head was in fact still attached to the rest of him, an obviously groggy Esson kept eager substitute Tuffey on the bench. Chances again came, Tansey volleying over and Tade heading over a chance that looked easier to dispatch. Tade did finally get the ball in the net right on half time, but Foran was deemed offside in the build up.
0-0 at half time was probably a fair reflection of play.
If that scoreline was fair, the second half was decidedly not. From the minute Terry Butcher descended from the stand (29th minute) Inverness were urged on to create more, and Foran duly had the first chance of the second half from a Hayes cross. In 57 minutes Doran replaced Ross, and the increased width began to create more space for the obvious and impressive pace that Inverness now have up front. Owain Tudur Jones and Thomas Piermayer were both showing well, and Esson again saved the jerseys with a magnificent stop from a Thornhill volley which thundered at him from the edge of the box. The major talking points, however, had to be the further two penalty claims, the most blatant of which was a handball from Stephens in direct sight of the stand side assistant. That Terry later described them as “blatant” was no exaggeration. The by now shattered Tade was replaced in 70 minutes by Shane Sutherland, who had a wonderful opportunity to convert his first touch into history, as it was becoming ever more obvious that whoever scored first would win this game. This realisation prompted Inverness to greater efforts and a succession of chances fell to Tansey, Aldred, Sutherland again and Foran. Hibs were saved by a combination of frenetic defending, the woodwork, rusty finishing, a determination not to award penalties and plain bad luck. There was only one team in the game by this point, but occasion glimpses of Hibs kept their fans sensing that something could happen. As 90 minutes came and went, Hibs had settled for a precious point when Hayes was dispossessed in midfield. The challenge looked and felt illegal, and may have contributed to the momentary lapse that allowed Murray to feed the ball to O’Connor, who drove forward and shot to Esson’s left post. Unhindered, it might have gone wide but a slight touch by Esson put the ball inside the post. None of the Hibs wild celebrations were witnessed by Inverness fans, who universally had heads in hands in utter disbelief. There was barely time to restart before Mr. Conroy finished the game.
FT: Inverness CT 0 v 1 Hibernian
So a second defeat for ICT leaves us bottom of the league, but there was little evidence of panic yesterday. Fans were of the almost universal opinion that this side will come good and there were enough suggestions yesterday to imply an Inverness side that may be one of the best vintages yet. There is class aplenty in the signinigs that TB has made, others are returning to their best and others still have progress to make. There is justified and real optimism for Dunfermline next week.
So what happened to lady luck? She was abducted, taken down the A9 and was last seen in a pub in Leith. But she’ll be back.
|Post Match ICT v HIBS
Sat 30th July
|Terry Butcher - 30th July 2011|
|Owain Tudur Jones - 30th July 2011|
|30th Jul 2011||Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Inverness
|CLYDESDALE BANK SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE|
|TEAM: Ryan Esson, Ross Tokely, Kenny Gillet, Tom Aldred, Thomas Piermayr, Johnny Hayes, Nick Ross (Aaron Doran 58), Greg Tansey, Owain Tudur Jones, Richie Foran, Gregory Tade (Shane Sutherland 69)|
|SUBS: Jonny Tuffey, David Proctor, Gavin Morrison, Graeme Shinnie, Andrew Shinnie|
|Sent Off: none|
|Hibernian||1 - O'Connor (90+2)|
|TEAM: Graham Stack, Callum Booth, Paul Hanlon, Ian Murray, David Wotherspoon (Edwin De Graaf 77), Garry O`Connor, Matt Thornhill, Lewis Stevenson (Daniel Galbraith 65), Ivan Sproule (David Crawford 83), Victor Palsson, David Stephens|
|SUBS: Mark Brown, Michael Hart, Lewis Horner, Ross Caldwell|
|Booked: Victor Palsson|
|Sent Off: none|