Finish with a flourish
This Sunday sees the last game of a traumatic season being played at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium with 5th place up for grabs and the £80,000 that goes with it. Our rivals for that place are St Johnstone and it's them that pay us a visit early on Sunday afternoon. For Inverness a draw will be enough to secure the money, for Perth, nothing but a win will be sufficient to climb above us.
The finale to the season has been something of an anti-climax for Inverness since the league cup final with only two wins since that day, and those were against struggling bottom six clubs Ross County and Partick Thistle. Over the same period the Perth club have totalled five wins, beating Dundee United twice and a sparkling Scottish Cup semi-final triumph over Aberdeen.
Our last game saw Motherwell hold on for a 2-1 win in midweek. Inverness were somewhat overgenerous in the first half and presented Motherwell with a two goal cushion at the break. Graeme Shinnie's deflected effort gave us some hope and despite creating the better chances in the second half we failed to level the game, and with defeat, our chances to climb to fourth in the league ended.
St Johnstone fared better against a Celtic X1 in a see-saw game that ended all square with the sides sharing six goals. One disappointment for Tommy Wright was an injury to hot-shot Stevie May and he will be assessed before Sunday's game. The Perth side have bigger fish to fry in a weeks time when they take on Tayside rivals Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final and Stevie May will be crucial to St Johnstone's hopes of winning the cup. It's made for him surely. He wears No 17. The games on the 17th, it's an omen I tell you.
In the three meetings this season, Inverness have come out on top twice by single goal victories. The first game though saw St Johnstone thump us 4-0. May, Mackay and Maclean (twice) scoring the goals that knocked Inverness off the top of the Premiership. At the turn of the year, Inverness were eight points ahead of the Saints. The points gap is now down to one.
Our quest to play like Barca has not always had the desired effect and has in fact contributed to a number of squeaky bum moments where we end up rushing pass backs and clearances as the opposition suss out our ball retention tactics. This has resulted in at least half a dozen freebies for our opponents, Dundee United being particular benefactors on a few occasions where Brill and the defence fell short with pass backs and clearances. Yogi's determination to see this through has not gone down well in some quarters but on the other hand I saw no complaints when we beat Ross County twice in Dingwall. Those games were played with a bit more swashbuckle and panache. Let's see a bit more of that and see if we can finish with a flourish. Swashbuckle and panache.................sounds like a dodgy firm of solicitors.
Inverness defender Josh Meekings and captain Richie Foran remain out through injury.
St Johnstone striker Stevie May and defender Gary Miller face late fitness tests after picking up knocks against Celtic although they are not as seriously injured as originally feared. Tam Scobbie and midfielder Murray Davidson remain out.
tm4tj prediction:- The season is dying on it's feet now and despite a fantastic start to the campaign and great cup runs it's all gone a bit flat as speculation surrounding the squad and management suitabilities abound. Still, it could be worse. Look at the village pub team from Dingwall just managing to stave off a relegation play off game thanks to the haplessness of Terry Butcher's Hibernian. You couldn't script this could you! As for our own game, maybe a scoring draw to keep everybody happy. 1-1.
We have our annual nutters out walking and cycling across Scotland and they will make the stadium before kick off having marched/cycled around 160miles from Motherwell..........as I said, nutters.
To end the season on a more poignant note, and put all of this season into perspective. It was with great sadness that the announcement of the passing of Elena Baltacha was met at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Johnstone FC. Bally sadly passed away after battling liver cancer at the tender age of 30. She had reached the top of her chosen sport of tennis and was British number 1 for three years. The link of course with both clubs was her father, former USSR international footballer Sergei Baltacha who played for St Johnstone making 90 appearances before moving to Inverness Caley in the Highland league and then when Inverness Caledonian Thistle came to fuition, Sergei was the first manager of the newly formed club.
Rest in Peace Bally, our thoughts go out to your family and friends.