Shadow Boxing or tug of war
History making game on Friday as Ross County attempt to come out of the shadow of the big club over the bridge. It's the first ever SPL Highland derby and the TV camera's will be there to catch the action and see who can pull the rope the hardest. The verbal sparring has begun between the rival fans looking to gain the bragging rights for the next couple of months with the Caley Jags fans likening County to a side forever in our Shadow in retaliation to County's jibes about our lack of milk at the Stadium. Ahhhhh, the joys of a derby game, maybe Hank Marvin and the lads will make an appearance.
Let's hope the result is not similar to one of the evening derby's at the Caledonian Stadium when both clubs were in the first division. Inverness were left chasing shadow's that night. 25th of February 2003, County were desperate for points as they were struggling to avoid relegation. They came, they saw and they conquered in some style. It seemed that every time County went forward, they scored and a 5-1 defeat was dished out to a shell shocked Inverness. Kevin McLeish, a Steve Ferguson penalty and a Tassos Venetis strike saw the Dingwall side three up at half-time. Further goals from Hugh Robertson and Conor Gethins ended the County goal spree while Dennis Wyness smashed home a consolation volley for Inverness.
Make no bones about it; fans from both sides have been looking forward to this game for a long time. County may have taken a bit longer to get to the SPL, but they are here now on merit and they have made a solid if unspectacular start to their debut season having recently lost their unbeaten league games run of forty undefeated, good by any standards. This has come from having a settled side and Adams has gathered a decent bunch of players together, none moreso than our old favourites of Grant Munro, Ross Tokely and Russell Duncan. Not to mention the other defectors in Ian Vigurs, Michael Fraser, and Mark Brown. This will certainly add plenty of spice to this fixture as some of these guys will certainly have something to prove to their old boss.
Terry Butcher will watch the derby with Ross County from the luxury of the main stand after agreeing to a one match touchline ban. His criticism of referee George Salmond after the Dons game did not go down well with the authorities and his ongoing battle with the beaks has culminated in this slap on the wrist. Butcher's views were seen to indicate incompetence from the officials. No argument from me about that.
Ginger Jaggy pens his thoughts on this historic match and begins with a history lesson for us all.........
1994 was big for many reasons. That year saw President Bill Clinton start talks with Russia to limit nuclear arms capability; long serving Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi first came to power while Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa. In sport Michael Schumacher won his first of seven world titles amidst the back drop of three time world champion Aryton Senna’s death earlier in that season. The major football news saw Brazil crowned world champions for a fourth time but for many in the Highlands, the 12th of January was the most important date of all.
Lots has been said and written about the merger of Inverness Caledonian Thistle but for fans of both the clubs the 12th of January 1994 was a new dawn. That day saw the Scottish league make Scottish football history by admitting a highland side into the league format. No one expected Ross County also getting the nod by the authorities but they did and from being excluded for so long the highlands got two representatives. Moving forward into 2012 and this Friday makes history as the first ever highland derby to be played in the top flight takes place. The attendance looks likely to break the record but before I indulge your footballing taste buds with Fridays feast let’s start off with a little trip down memory lane.
After that magnificent day for highland football in January all eyes moved to the 27th of August that same year for the first ever Highland derby in the Scottish football league. .The game was played at Victoria Park but it was to be away supporters celebrating a historical first derby victory. That day Caledonian Thistle scored once but came out 3-1 winners. Wilson Robertson was the first man to score for Inverness in these derbies scoring the last of the 3 goals. Before then Ross County had scored three but sadly for them two ended up in their own net – what a shame! This first ever game attracted 3157 but it would not be long before they attracted over 5000 spectators. Inverness’s turn to host ended in a drab 0-0 draw in front of a derisory 2440 people - at Telford Street Park- as the team lost form midway through the season after a great start. County would then revenge that score line from Victoria Park earlier on in the season by winning by the same score line at the same venue in the new year derby. It was 6th of May 1995 when Inverness saw their first home victory against the men from Dingwall. Norman Macmillan, Alan Hercher and Charlie Christie were the heroes in a routine 3-0 win at Telford Street in front of 3362. The result was just for pride but did end any hopes County had of promotion at the first time of asking. The first ever season of Football League Highland derbies saw Inverness hold the bragging rights with two victories but it was not enough as we finished a disappointing 6th while County finished 3rd.
Back to Friday with supporters of both sides hoping that they can take first bragging rights with them. To liven things up even more County will turn up with three old Caley Thistle stalwarts in Grant Munro, Ross Tokely and Russell Duncan. The hope is that this attendance will break the previous record of 6120 at Victoria Park in 2004 with history being made in the first derby at this level. County have adapted well to life in the top flight but could be described as solid rather than spectacular, only amassing 7 goals, of which 4 came at St Mirren last weekend and they still lost. They have produced 4 goal-less draws so far this season which proves that they may not be able to find the scoring touch but they certainly know how to keep it tight. They almost shocked Champions Celtic at Victoria Park but they were denied Victory by a Kris Commons injury time goal.
If county have been tight and hard to break down then the same can not be said about Inverness. A huge improvement on last season has seen performances much better and much easier on the eye. But while we don’t need to ask twice where the net is, it has been a frustrating start at the back. Compared to County, Inverness has only kept one clean sheet coming in the 4-0 demolition of Dundee United on Saturday. But we have scored in every league match so far this season and had we not been so slack at the back, we could be sitting much higher. Spirits are high after last weekend and with that result we climbed up to the dizzy heights of 9th jumping last weekend’s opponents and our visitors on Friday. Hopefully after the first win and clean sheet, confidence will be high all across the team especially against a side that will be rattled by defeat in such a remarkable game. Butcher looks to have stumbled across a team that is very well balanced with Richie Foran in magnificent form and young Arsenal loanee Philip Roberts adding a touch of quality and an eye for goal to boot.
However, form goes out the window in these types of matches as it is everyone’s cup final and so all that is left to say is COME ON CALEY.
***Latest Team News***
Antonio Reguero deputised last weekend against Dundee United and he will continue in goal with Ryan Esson requiring a scan on his injured groin, as Butcher fears he may be without his number 1 for a few weeks. Chris Hogg, Shane Sutherland, Nick Ross and Simon King are all long term casualties and Andre Blackman is struggling to shake off an ankle knock sustained at Hibernian. Owain Tudur-Jones is available, however Gavin Morrison has proved to be an able deputy in midfield where he adds some steel to the engine room. The impressive Phillip Roberts and Conor Pepper will vie for the strikers role with Billy McKay and Butcher may well favour the same starting eleven as last time out. Richie Foran is on a rich vein of form just now with five goals in four games and his first last weekend was sheer class.
Ross County will be without Marc Corcorran and Alex Cooper. Richard Brittain and Colin McMenamin had a run out with the U20's to build their fitness for Friday and should be included in the squad. Paul Lawson never played in that game and is unlikely to feature. With neither camp giving much away, that's about it as far as latest team news. I suspect both managers will be keeping their first eleven close to their chest, just adds to the tension ahead of the big game.
tm4tj Prediction:- Wow, how do you predict a game that has never seen the light of day before, a first SPL derby. Prior to last weeks results I would have put County's chances of victory at good to excellent, but last weeks results have thrown a massive spanner in the works. County are very strong defensively, especially on their own tight park where space is at a premium. However the wide open area's at Inverness could be to our advantage, and the recent form of Richie Foran has given us reasons to be cheerful. Phillip Roberts is an unknown quantity for County to deal with and his youthful enthusiasm could pull the rope our way. It is of course too tight to call though and a share of the spoils could be on the cards, but I will go for a tense and tight victory for Inverness by the odd goal in three.
Come on the Caley Jags, reel that rope in......................Who put the o and the y in County