Chance to shine
It's the last chance to catch the managers eye before the League Cup semi-final as Inverness make the long haul to Kilmarnock, home of the Killie pie and venue of some good times for us. A new face will be in the away dugout as Russell Latapy has joined up again with Yogi to become our new management partnership. The talented former Trinidad and Tobago international midfielder made 79 appearances for his country, and has teams like Boavista, Porto, Hibernian and Glasgow Rangers on his CV.
AJS is our wordmonger this week with this preview for you..............................
Caley away with Yogi and Russ - Chapter 1
ICT Players, staff and fans make the 395 mile all round trip to Kilmarnock this weekend with John Hughes and his side looking to build on the monumental three points gathered from Aberdeen the week before. The performance as well as the result will have put a great deal of promise back into the season following a bleak winter. With a threadbare team and poor form on the stats sheet we travelled to Pittodrie to face a near full strength Aberdeen side who hadn't lost in their last 8. History kicked in and with our backs to the wall we stepped up and delivered a resounding performance, a stunning goal and well taken 1-0 win back to the Highlands to bring a combination of relief and gladness to all associated with the club.
While Yogi may seem to have turned a corner, it seems as though his counterpart this weekend is also beginning to find his way. Allan Johnston has endured a frustrating beginning to top flight management as a host of problems have disrupted the Ayshire side this season. Injury, lack of funds and a selection of unwanted holdovers from previous regimes left Johnston with a lightweight and somewhat disjointed squad and despite some impressive performances the results did not reflect and nor did the league position as only Hearts and their deduction separated Killie from the bottom. The build up to Christmas saw a change in fortune and now results look more favourable with just 3 defeats in 8 and a shift up the table to 9th, their last result being a point well snatched at Firhill
With the January window now open both sides have also been active in the transfer market. Greg Tansey made a surprise return north to ICT following an 18 month spell with Stevenage. He signed a contract till the end of next season and was thrown into the match at Aberdeen, showing flashes of what he's capable of with some sharp passes and a strong presence in a midfield that was lacking numbers. Yogi has stated he is still in the market for a striker with Billy McKay the only senior frontman in the side. Bringing in someone else is an absolute must with the end of the window approaching. We cant put that amount of pressure on wee Bill for the rest of the season, especially if he gets injured.
Killie have been active themselves. Retaining the services of loanees Jackson Irvine and Michael Gardyne for the remainder of the campaign while also securing a loan deal for Brighton defender Vitalijs Maksimenko. One name linked with a move to Killie is their former player Alexei Eremenko. The Finnish midfielder was a revelation during his stay at Rugby Park, getting nominated for player of the year as a result of some classy performances. ICT fans will be hoping that negotiations for his return to the club carry on over the weekend.
Fixtures between the sides have always served up goals, especially at Rugby park and the form reflects well for us as visitors. The last two visits have seen ICT pick up 2-1 wins consecutively while the last win for Killie was an enthralling 4-3 encounter two seasons ago. That same season saw without doubt our greatest win over Kilmarnock and arguably our greatest away day triumph in the top flight. The 5th November 2011. On the back of a crushing defeat to Motherwell we travelled to Rugby Park deprived of form and a defence courtesy of injuries and suspensions. Kilmarnock grabbed an early lead against a Caley defence leaking goals. Andy Shinnie equalized on the stroke of half time and what followed was one of footballs magical moments served up that every football fan deserves in their life. The 2nd half kicked off and in no time at all Jonny Hayes had turned the game on its head with a lethal 25 yard strike, before we had time to worry about a Killie comeback Shinnie had doubled his tally and the advantage before a solo run and finish from Gregory Tade made it 4 and the 5th was happily rounded off with Shinnie completing his hat trick, latching onto a great run from David Davis (remember him?). Killie pulled one back before Tade scored a 2nd...yes Tade scored 2 goals in this game to make it 6-2. Killie got a 3rd in the last minute by which point most home fans had cleared the stadium and following the full time whistle the small band of loyals that braved it and made the journey were sent into raptures and partied on into the night.
With such inspiration to draw from past games I'm hoping this Saturday will be equally as enthralling. Both teams have danger men that are capable of producing on the day. The likes of youngster Chris Johnston and Gardyne for Killie are well matched by Doran and Williams, who in particular seems to be finding his feet which is pleasing. Both teams have a potent goal threat with Kris Boyd being a proven name in this league, while Billy McKay is joint top scorer and both are keen for a result, one looking to secure top six and chase Europe and one chasing survival. It doesn't matter what the distance is between the teams, both have quality and both need 3 points, there is little excuse for a slack game. My only hope is that we keep the Semi Final out of our thoughts as much as possible. John Hughes has used it as a motivational key for those who are playing on Saturday, that those who impress will feature in the game. That's probably the most sensible way to balance it out, its bound to play on the minds of some of the lads but with that incentive thrown to them by the manager and the wise heads such as Foran and Esson keeping them grounded I see no reason why we can't come away from Rugby Park with a well earned 3 points on Saturday.
To end I would like to welcome Russell Latapy to the club as Yogi's assistant. I was absolutely delighted at this appointment, being a huge fan of him as a player. He was classy on the park and he brings domestic, European and even World cup experience to the table as well as sharing a good working relationship with the gaffer. He will surely have a lot to pass on to our players in terms of coaching and I look forward to seeing our new management team finally get to work as a duo.
Inverness will be boosted by the return of Gary Warren and Ross Draper from suspension and Marley Watkins should be fit for this one along with James Vincent who started on the bench last week. This should all add up to a selection headache for the new management team although Richie Foran remains out. Kilmarnock have defender Vitalijs Maksimenko signed in time for him to play tomorrow and Ismael Bouzid could return but fellow defender Darren Barr is out long term while David Silva will sit this one out.
AJS prediction :- It will be a tight game I think, both teams have goals in them and will be eager for a result but I'm hoping our quality in the final third will see us through, as well as our ability to hit teams on the break - I'm going for a 3-1 win.