Running Scared, or Running for Top-Six?
Ross County are the form team in the SPL right now. Unbeaten since before Christmas when Celtic beat them 4-0 at Parkhead, they have embarked on a remarkable eleven game run taking 27 points out of a possible 33. This has resulted in a surge up the table from second bottom on the 22nd of December to overhaul the 14 point gap to ourselves. After beating Celtic last weekend, they jumped one point above us to third in the table, how dare they. On the other hand, we are stuttering towards the split and confidence is not as high as it was before Christmas. To put Counties achievement into perspective, we have gained only 12 points over the same period and look to have blown our chances of finishing second in the SPL.
It has been a good season by any standards. Both Highland clubs are breaking records this season. Billy McKay's scoring exploits have kept us in touch at the top end and we led the table in terms of goals scored for long enough. County's, debut season has turned out rather well for them after an inauspicious start and they look to have earned a top-six spot after their unbeaten run. Ah yes, that reminds me, beach football has always been a particular favourite of mine.
After last weeks disappointing draw at Dundee, Terry Butcher has been handed a bill for £200 for venting his frustration at his teams inability to take three points by smashing a hole in the dugout. The plastic covering was damaged as Butcher suffered like the rest of us and opinions on CTO were mixed on the rights and wrongs of this, but Scotty came up with the best answer; "maybe we should all just put it in perspextive!"
His frustrations though are not unwarranted and are shared by us all as the team struggles to get over the top six finish line. Points have been dropped in the run towards the split and we have thrown a few points away since our bad week when we were knocked out of both cups and suffered SPL defeat. Kilmarnock at home springs to mind. Our confidence seems to have taken a knock and our free scoring run has almost ground to a halt. Teams we would have beaten earlier in the season are now picking points off us as the battle for position heightens.
Here he is in calmer times..........
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And hark, what's this I hear..........
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It's a rallying call to all Caley Thistle troops to get behind the team for a final push towards the promised land. Never before has this club needed everyone to pull in the same direction with such power as they need on Saturday. County have done exceptionally well to get to where they are right now, and have almost overshadowed what we have achieved so far this season. However, both clubs have won nothing yet but a win for either could well go a long way to creating history, and the backing of the fans is a must if we are to get out of the habit of bottling these games. You can bet your bottom dollar that the County fans will be well up for this, and rightly so considering their current form, so wet yer whistle and get behind the team.
Motherwell's bottle seems to be holding up pretty well as they thrashed Hibs 4-1 last night to go six points ahead of us and look to be the team that will secure second spot unless we can get get back in the groove.
***Latest Team News***
After his ridiculous booking in the last derby for alleged diving, Graeme Shinnie will have to miss this game out through suspension. Charlie Taylor was tried at left back against Dundee and he seems favourite to deputise, although Daniel Devine could be in with a shout as well. Chris Hogg and Simon King are long term absentees and Phillip Roberts has a knock.
Richard Brittain and Ivan Sproule are not assured of a return to action. That is the view of Derek Adams who is content with the job his replacements have done, although that may well be a smoke screen from the Seethe as they have been integral in Counties surge to the top. Michael Fraser looks set to continue in goal for the injured Mark Brown.
tm4tj Prediction:- Oh my, it's a tough call. You should really go with the form team when it comes to these games. However, County have failed to win in the previous four games this season, Inverness winning twice. We have not been at our best recently and County's run has been beyond what their own fans would have thought possible. They are just poking out of the shadows now, but it's time to put them back in their place. If we can get some momentum going, then it's not inconceivable that County's run will come to an end at the hands of the top team in the Highlands. We need a team of battlers on the park, that should rule out the deft touches of Nick Ross, and we need ten Richie Foran's and one Ryan Esson.................but most of all, we need lot's of vocal backing and that's where you lot come in. 2-1 for us and an end to
County's remarkable run. :ictscarf:
Here's one of them to tell us about it
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Ginger Jaggy has his say on the forthcoming derby.................
Don your colours, man the stands, make some noise and get behind Terry’s boys this weekend. The Highland Derby will see its fifth instalment in Inverness on Saturday as third faces fourth in a titanic battle that will nudge the victor towards a historic debut appearance in the top six.
On the fifth of October the Caledonian stadium played host to a historic first Highland Derby in Scottish football’s top flight. On Saturday the teams will meet again in Inverness but with so much more riding on it than that first SPL encounter. This game will mean so much more than local pride, it will go a long way to one of these rivals cementing a place in the top six and look forward to the potential adventure of Europe. With three games to go there is only nine points separating second place Motherwell and Aberdeen in ninth with any team in that pack in the running to make it.
The respective form of both teams sees a marked difference in fortunes from the last time these two met in Inverness on cup replay duty. Caley Thistle looked dead certainties to be top six after a blistering first half of the campaign. But we have since stuttered towards the split even though we are unbeaten in our last 4. County on the other hand are the run-away train that we were at the start of the season. They last suffered defeat in a 4-0 drubbing at Celtic Park just before Christmas and since then have gone on an 11 game unbeaten run which has seen them fail to taste defeat in 2013. In fact that defeat saw County sit some 12 points adrift of us in second place with County down in eleventh just nine clear of Dundee. Now we see County sit one point ahead of us; how the table has been turned on its head.
This dramatic change in form was present last week when Inverness could only pick up a point at the bottom team Dundee, while yet again, County picked up a miraculous 3-2 comeback win against the champions elect in Dingwall. The facts show that the momentum is with County but all is not lost for the home faithful. A lot of County’s momentum has come from some decent home form which is unsurprising as the surface contributes to anti football. And for us it hasn’t been too bad barring one or two games. The difference has been that everything that went for us in the first half of the season is not going for us now. What has happened I don’t know but I know that the eleven players that take to the field give their all and as fans we should appreciate it even if it is slightly disappointing we aren’t winning games like we were.
As for tactics it may be time for a slight change in the system. The 4-2-3-1 has worked well for us this season and does make us compact, but whether teams have worked it out or the players have just lost a little sharpness it is not as attacking as it was. One criticism of the last match against Dundee was that Inverness - on a tricky surface- failed to hold on to the ball with high balls for Billy Mckay. Even with a much better surface than in Dingwall, Inverness may have to go more direct and putting Richie Foran up alongside McKay will give County more problems and something different to think about. Having Foran back in the starting line up also has to be a must as he is the driving force of the team who is very good at taking games by the scruff of their necks. For County I would expect them to go one up front like they did in the league and cup game at Inverness. The danger will come from the flanks with Vigurs – who likes a goal against us – and if fit, Ivan Sproule who has five in his seven league games since his release from Hibs. Against Celtic they played a 4-1-4-1 with Paul Lawson playing in the hole between defence and midfield and I would expect similar on Saturday. One big weakness could be Michael Fraser who looked very shaky with Celtic’s two goals and this is why I would like to see lots of crosses and Foran, Draper or Jones being a presence from set pieces.
Overall it is a huge game for both sides. A draw may help both sides gain a top 6 berth but that will be the last thought come 3 o’clock. It is in my opinion, it's bigger for Caley Thistle than Ross County to gain all three points. It will take us back above County and if results work out then it could see us concrete our place in the right half of the table. We may not have been setting the league alight recently but our exploits from the first half of the season makes a top six place definitely deserved. Top six is the main goal but a victory on Saturday especially against the opposition may just be the catalyst for the team to find a late burst towards gaining a historic debut in Europe.
Tensions boiled over two weeks ago between Butcher and Adams which was on the cards after Adams made it his major goal to get one over us since the cup tie in Dingwall. I as well as many others will love to see the return of that reaction from that day come 5pm Saturday and I feel we will get it, in a morale boosting 2-0 victory.
IN THE WORDS OF DELIA SMITH ‘LETS BE HAVING YOU’
MAKE SATURDAY AN OCCASION TO REMEMBER FOR A GREAT HIGHLAND DERBY DAY SUCCESS
C'MON CALEY THISTLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :ictscarf: