Match Report: Ross County 2-1 ICTFC
Ross County knicked a win and the bragging rights from the last Highland derby of 2018, but ICTFC could feel hard done by due to their dominance of the chances in the second half. Former Caley Jag, Billy Mckay opened the scoring for the hosts after pouncing on a parry from Ridgers but Jordan White leveled 30 minutes in.
The second half seemed to show that ICTFC were the hungrier of the two, peppering Fox’s goal from the kick-off, but with ten minutes to go, Ross Stewart turned the tie in favour of the hosts. As the match drew to a close, it could be said that the heat of the moment got in the way of a feisty but harmless game between the teams. Recent Ross County substitute Brian Graham and ICT’s Shaun Rooney received their marching orders after they had heated words in the dying seconds of the game.
The Highland Derby was a chance for the Caley Jags to keep pace with the pack in the top half of the table and to potentially separate the sides, following two draws in the previous derbies of the season so far. George Oakley was injured, but Tremarco managed to get on the bench for the first time since picking up an injury in October.
In comparison to the first derby of the season at the Global Energy stadium, fans were treated to more shots on target as each side tried to break down the other. The first opportunity of the game was snatched at by Billy Mckay as he swivelled to test Ridgers, following a deflected cross from Michael Gardyne on the right hand side.
Shortly after, Polworth had a great opportunity to get ahead for the visitors, after great work from Tom Walsh. Two of County’s players got tangled up in their own half and the in form winger bolted up the pitch in acres of space, cutting back for ICT’s number seven to have a pop on goal. He did well to keep the shot down first time, but it was down the throat of Scott Fox, who gathered.
Two former faces combined to ripple the net of Ridger’s goal as County went ahead at he 17th minute. Ross Draper received the ball near the edge of the box and hit a low and curling shot that Ridgers did well to save, but Mckay reacted quickly to prod it home for the home team.
Lindsay and Donaldson were the first players to be booked in the game, following some feisty discussions during a break in play.
At the 30 minute mark, Caley Thistle could smell blood as they peppered the goal with shots. Walsh was the first creator of opportunities for the visitors. Shaun Welsh received a chipped through ball on the right and duly set up Walsh with a goal-line cross to the middle; his effort was too hot to handle for Fox, who could only push it away. The ball landed to Aaron Doran on the edge, who tested the keeper but couldn’t convert the rebound and finally, Jordan White did well to direct a header on target but Fox had recovered to save.
The same couldn’t be said a minute later.
Walsh took an inswinging corner from the near side and Jordan White was the first to volley it home at the near post to bring things level. It was the 100th career goal for the striker and his first goal for the side during the Highland derby.
The last say in the half fell to Draper minutes later, with the Englishman hitting a loose ball on the edge of the box left footed. His attempt seemed to be going above the cross bar, only for it to dip at the last minute and Mark Ridgers had to tip the ball over to make sure.
At the kick-off, White could’ve doubled his tally with an excellent attempt on goal. Tom Walsh was unleashed down the right hand side with a long ball and did well to reach it and cross to the middle of the box. Under pressure from defenders, White directed his header to the far post and it seemed destined to go in, with Fox did well to reach the effort and tip it over.
Walsh was the next recipient of a chance for the away team, as the ball fell well to him on the right inside the box, but his left footed shot was a tad wide of the post. From a long distance, the Vice-captain Aaron Doran had a speculative shot from range but his effort was straight into the hands of Fox, following a bounce.
The previous two combined as Doran tried to latch on to a through ball over his shoulder. He couldn’t quite get a hold of it but Walsh could, and he managed to direct a powerful shot toward the top corner at the near post on target.
Donaldson was the next in the queue to claim a chance, following a great corner from Walsh on the near side. His head rose highest from a tight group of players to aim it goalwards but again it swept past the post.
With Captain Carl sitting on the bench for the first time after being sidelined with an injury since October, his debuty left-back, Jamie McCart looked comfortable as he was given the nod for the derby. After receiving the ball on the left hand side, he whipped in a tantalising cross to Tom Walsh, who volleyed first time across goal to the far post. On another day, the ball would have settled on the other side of the post as it went out for a goal kick.
But amidst the flurry of chances, it was the hosts that got the deciding goal.
From the middle-left of the pitch, Draper hit a speculative high ball into the box and Ross Stewart stretched his neck to direct his header back across goal and away from Mark Ridgers. A bitter pill to swallow from The Caley Jags, who has the lion’s share of the opportunities.
As both sides tried to effect the lead of the game as the seconds ticked away, the pressure got to the sides during a stramash of bodies. Brian Graham was dismissed for a elbow on Coll Donaldson while Rooney was sent off after a coming together between the players after the incident.
Ref: Andrew Dallas
Watch the Highlights HERE
Watch the Reaction from ICTFC boss John Robertson HERE