Ross County 1 v 3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Inverness greeted a new year in glorious style, arresting a three game losing streak that had witnessed a worrisome lack of goals. Sure they had played well enough against St. Johnstone and Aberdeen, but they had no intentions of enduring another hard luck story in Dingwall and it showed. New Year, new story.
What had remained unchanged was the starting eleven, those who drew a blank against the Dons being given another chance. This was to prove something of a masterstroke by John Hughes, giving Aaron Doran the chance to cement a place ahead of Danny Williams or James Vincent.
Hughes said: “Experience tells you they're good boys. It's an old trick I learned off Jim Jefferies that some players who haven't been playing can come in and do well at certain places, and Aaron Doran always does well up here in Dingwall." He would certainly seem to, using all of his craft and guile to fashion two of his side’s three goals and probably should have had a hat-trick to boast of.
The first half was a lesson in dominance from Inverness that should have been rewarded with more than Doran’s single counter on twenty seven minutes, a fine angled drive that left Reguero without a prayer. Such was the pressure that Inverness brought to bear that County boss Jim Macintyre was forced into two tactical substitutions before the interval in a desperate move to limit the damage that was being caused to his team. He failed.
The second half started as the first, but county gradually clawed their way into the game, only to be dealt a hammer blow by that man Doran just before the hour. This time his shot deflected wickedly past Reguero and it looked as if the floodgates might open and reflect the incessant rain that had sluiced down on Dingwall all day. It wasn’t the way it panned out though, as Irvine almost immediately pulled one back with what was literally County’s only on target shot of the day.
The result was never in doubt, however and Billy Mckay’s fine strike finished the contest. To say that John Hughes was pleased was an understatement: "Our first-half performance was back to what we were doing early in the season. We were passing it very well and had total control of the football. We got our reward with the goal but we should have scored more in the first half. We adapted a little bit, knowing we could sit in and hit them on the counter. My only disappointment was losing the goal so quickly after scoring our second one, but it was a really good team performance. It's great to see the hard work we're doing on the training pitch coming to fruition. We're trying to get our wingers high up the park. The link-up play was great and that was really pleasing. Tactically, the way we went about our business gave us a real foothold in the game and let us boss it."
Boss it they certainly did, reflected by the fact that County’s man of the match was the goalkeeper Reguero despite his losing three goals. It is a worry looking at how weakened and disheartened County appear at the moment, anchored at the foot of the premiership and looking unlikely to better that position any time soon. In truth it is vital for North football that they do escape the drop, as these derby games are too good a fixture to lose. Yesterday though was all about Inverness. Back in the groove, they look quite capable of the best season in their existence and if they achieve that it will be in no short measure due to heroes like Aaron Doran. 2015 promises to be quite a year, and this column offers wishes to each and every one of you the happiest and most prosperous of new Years. Slainte!
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