It's A96 time this weekend as Aberdeen host Inverness with both sides vying for a Euro spot at the business end of the table. Second take on fifth in what is a six-pointer this early in the season.
Inverness' depleted squad received a boost as news of Greg Tansey's return to the Highland Capital was greeted with much anticipation. We have lacked a dead ball expert recently, (well for a few years), and Tansey has a reputation for striking a decent free kick and I'm sure he could give the odd penalty some welly if required. Greg has signed a one and a half year deal since Stevenage released him early from his current contract. Russell Latapy has been lined up as Yogi's second in command, so will we be in for a laid back calypso style of soccer at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium?
Seems like a good bit of business for Inverness and Greg had this to say on his return:- “I am very happy to return to Inverness I know the lads and I thoroughly enjoyed my last spell at the club. We have some exciting games coming up and I look forward to helping the club continue their magnificent progress over the past couple of years.”
This is the third meeting between these clubs this season and Aberdeen are looking for a hat-trick of wins over Inverness. The first game at Pittodrie was tight, but Aberdeen edged it thanks to a superb Scott Vernon turn and strike. The second game was the proverbial game of two halves. Aberdeen were afforded a seemingly comfortable 4-0 half time lead, but by full time they were hanging on to a 4-3 lead which could easily have been overturned, but it was not to be for Inverness as the Dons held on for their second win over us this season.
So, here we are, Inverness without a whole midfield and centre back and Aberdeen on a high just now. It looks like it could be a long day for us on Saturday. Aberdeen sit ten points above Inverness although we have two games in hand. Aberdeen have suffered only one defeat in eight games whilst Inverness have only one win in their last seven games. Both teams have lost 19 goals this season, but the Don's have moved 5 goals ahead in the scoring stakes.
Inverness will be missing the suspended duo of Ross Draper and Gary Warren. Add to that the Injured James Vincent and Richie Foran and the struggling Marley Watkins, it's clear to see why bringing in a ready made replacement was vital at this stage of the season. Greg Tansey ticks most boxes and Danny Devine will no doubt deputise for the missing Warren. Danny Williams is picking up the pace after a slow start and Ben Greenhalgh is champing at the bit for some first team action. Nick Ross missed a penalty last week, but his overall game was decent enough, although Tansey will provide us with a bit more dig in the engine room. Dean Brill did not cover himself in glory last week and Ryan Esson will be waiting in the wings should he be relieved of his duties.
Aberdeen's Andrew Considine returns for the visit of Inverness after his recovery from a calf injury. Full-back Clark Robertson remains out and Nicky Low is out for the second game of a two-match ban.
tm4tj Prediction:- Damage limitation is something that springs to mind, but in adversity we are at our best and it doesn't come much tougher than playing a form team away from home without some of your most influential players. If Tansey were to start then that will go some way to lessening the blow of Draper, Foran, Vincent, Warren and possibly Watkins being unavailable. Danny Devine has been an able deputy previously, but he's no Gary Warren although he has played with Josh Meekings before. Some of the others need to step up to the plate and more is required of the likes of Danny Williams Aaron Doran and Nick Ross, three players with plenty of talent but so far, no end product. Billy McKay needs assistance up front, and while he is still here, we still have a chance, but for me it's a slim chance this weekend. A draw at best and minimise the damage at worst. 2-0 for the home side is my best guess.