141005 county warren 002Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 v 1 Ross County

Football is a game that perhaps generates more clichés than any other on the planet. Given the game’s universal popularity, they can be about anything and everything but one crops up regularly – the game of two halves.

So it was at Inverness, County taking full advantage of their hosts in the first half before being reined back in the second by a resurgent Caley Thistle. Tulloch Caledonian Stadium welcomed a crowd of 3741 on a mild autumnal Sunday with an unsurprisingly settled side that had narrowly lost to Aberdeen in their last outing. County arrived with a new Manager and a side fired up by their need to impress, so the makings of an intriguing day were all there.

141005 county mckay 001County started with whirlwind intensity, but not until after they had been dealt an almighty fright by Billy Mckay, who fired narrowly past after outpacing a labouring County rearguard. They settled, pressing Inverness as high up the pitch as they dared and of course it had the desired effect – nullifying Caley Thistle’s midfield and unsettling the home support.

Carey and Kiss went closest before Arquin headed home in 21 minutes, heading a Quinn cross into Brill’s net. Brill saved Caley Thistle on a couple of occasions before that, blocking from Quinn and saving from Arquin. His best, however was reserved for a flying stop from a perfectly struck Carey free kick as County pressed for a decisive counter. Mark Brown then provided the acrobatics, pushing a lob from Christie just over the bar.

141005 county watkins 001Caley Thistle reappeared quickly after the break, somewhat rearranged in to a 4-4-2 that saw Watkins supporting Mckay in attack. Whatever John Hughes had said to his side at half time quickly paid dividends as they equalised within 5 minutes. A measured Ryan Christie cross looped off the head of Boyd and Watkins side footed the ball home to the obvious joy and relief of the home crowd.

Watkins celebrated, no doubt buoyed by his being placed on standby for Wales in their upcoming games. He deserves it. A quiet, almost shy boy he is unassuming to the point of incredulity for someone blessed with his talents. Mercurial, strong and impossibly fast his three goals in three games have shown that he has listened to his manager, added that final string to his bow and how it is paying dividends. “Dream big” he said post-match and in his case the dream has every chance of coming true.

The other big point of the second half was the display of Mark Brown. Saves from Doran and Watkins preceded two stops from Billy Mckay, the second of which was breathtaking as Brown arched upwards and backwards to somehow claw the ball over the crossbar after Mckay had blasted the ball at him from no distance at all.

He did it again from Draper and Christie, but the County defence played their part, blocking and clearing with desperate intensity. As a somewhat frustrated John Hughes said, “We created enough chances to win two games, never mind one. Lady luck just evaded us. Is it luck or that final bit of quality and that final decision; that cut back; that cross that’s letting us down?”

It’ll come. There is enough going in to Doran, Mckay, Christie and Watkins to ensure that Inverness will pose a danger to any team that faces them this season. After the break, they face St. Mirren away and then Dundee United at home.

Going into these games third in the League, Inverness can continue to chase leaders Hamilton in the lead up to Christmas and after that who knows? 
It’s a funny old game, football.

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