150224 dutd fan 001Dundee Utd 1 v 1 Inverness CT

Inverness were welcomed to Dundee on a bitter Tuesday night by a Dundee United side that was in some disarray after a weekend defeat to St. Johnstone. In a nod to fans who had missed the original fixture through the late postponement, United lowered the entry price to a fiver and were rewarded by a crowd of over 7000.

An away victory would put them ten points ahead of United in the chase for a European spot, and guarantee a top six spot. The pitch was in dreadful condition, glutinous and patchy with goalmouths that contained no grass and pitched up clouds of dust when disturbed by man or ball. The scene was set.

150224 dutd redcard 001There was barely time to settle down before David Raven was cautioned by referee Murray within 13 seconds, but not too much indication that this game would explode within six minutes as Marley Watkins bent his run off the back of a static United back line.

Keeper Szromnik duly brought him down, followed by the inevitable penalty and red card. The disconsolate Pole was replaced by another, Czerzniak, but he could do nothing about Greg Tansey’s arrowed penalty. Thereafter, the game entered a curious phase which lasted for the remainder of the night where both teams took a back seat to conditions and officials.

150224 dutd tansey 001The pitch became increasingly rutted, making passing impossible. As Tansey and Christie became increasingly frustrated by passes that became increasingly impossible to judge, the defence arrived at the same place in finding tackles increasingly difficult to judge and the caution count rose alarmingly. John Hughes unhappiness was evident at the break. "Dundee United were up for it, they've come off two defeats and they were up for it, they were getting stuck in, they were very aggressive and I don't think we got enough protection from the referee”.

150224 dutd warren 001If the boss was unhappy at that point, you could only imagine his thoughts as a quite awful second half unfolded. "We got the penalty and played some nice stuff in the first half and once again forgot to play in the second half," he added. "When I look at my team, we needed to get our foot on the ball and make a couple of passes and take it a run, but we failed to do that".

In fairness it was impossible to play through the pitch, and both sides resorted to increasingly long balls behind their defences. United’s equaliser came from just such a ball which McGowan initially swiped at in the six yard box. It eventually slapped off a couple of players before looping beyond Esson.

However, if the crowd thought that the game had finished with them at that point, there was a further ignition of aggression that ensured that the teams would finish with ten men each. Nadir Ciftci, in going for a corner appeared intent on going through Gary Warren rather than round him. As the two faced up, the assistant referee intervened and Warren was issued a red card. Ciftci, in a barely credible decision, was issued a yellow. At that point, it became a simple exercise in survival for Inverness, both in terms of salvaging the draw and further punishments. They succeeded in that.

This was a tousy affair. It’s strange, because the two clubs have no natural enmity and both can be great footballing sides on their day. The status quo remains with Inverness still in the driving seat for third place in the SPFL. Let’s hope they cement that on Saturday at Motherwell with something that is more approaching football from an opposition that will still be fighting for their very existence. It will be tough, make no mistake.

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