It's Tough at the Top
Last chance saloon for Inverness if they harbour any hopes of catching Dundee United in fourth place and the extra £80,000 that goes with each position gained. While we are looking to claim fourth spot, Motherwell can still secure second place currently occupied by Aberdeen, so plenty still to play for in these last two games of the season. United play Aberdeen ahead of our game at Motherwell so we will know what to do prior to kick off.
We earned a good point at home to Dundee United at the weekend considering Yogi had to make late changes to the starting eleven. Our back four was decimated and we were without David Raven, Gary Warren and Josh Meekings with Graeme Shinnie swapping flanks to accommodate others. Carl Tremarco made an appearance as a makeshift centre back alongside Danny Devine and Danny Williams found himself in the full back slot normally occupied by Shinnie. Ryan Christie got his second start and scored the opener before United's second half pressure eventually paid off when Farid El Alagui bundled the ball home after Brill had been put under some heavy handed attention.
Motherwell kept the pressure on faltering Aberdeen by defeating our challengers for the fifth position, resurgent St Johnstone by 2-1 at Fir Park. That was an excellent victory for Well as the Perth outfit had been on a seven game unbeaten run. First half goals from Lionel Ainsworth and Stephen McManus were enough to see off Saints and edge Motherwell to within one point of the Dons.
Our recent thrashing at Parkhead was maybe put into perspective on Saturday when second place Aberdeen suffered a similar fate with Champions Celtic ending the season on a scoring frenzy, putting five past a normally resolute Dons.
Motherwell have scored 61 league goals this season but their defence has let them down at times which leads me to think this could be an open game with a few goals in it given the defensive frailties of both sides recently.
The two sides have met twice in the last six weeks and Motherwell came out on top on both occasions securing a 2-0 win at Fir Park and more recently a 2-1 win at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. Our only success was a 2-0 home win way back in August when Foran and McKay scored the goals that gave us the three points.
Since our blistering start to the season and the departure of a man in turmoil, we have slithered from second to fifth and our season is almost at a standstill as the goals dry up from our one man attack. One bright spot in the recent gloom has been the introduction of one of the hottest properties in the game, Ryan Christie who scored his second first team goal last weekend.
We have been hit by some sort of bug over the last couple of weeks that has kept Marley Watkins and Josh Meekings out at some stage and late Injuries to Raven, Warren and Vincent has made life difficult for Yogi. Carl Tremarco filled the central defensive role very well against United despite his lack of height and Danny Devine once more fitted in very comfortably. Hughes will have a tough choice to make whether Warren and Meekings return to the starting line up if they have recovered sufficiently or does he keep faith with those who deputised so effectively. Vincent and Raven should return after injury, but Foran is out for the season.
Award winning Graeme Shinnie looks forward to tonights game..........
Stuart McCall has had another tremendous season with Motherwell and his master plan in securing James McFadden will see them play in Europe again. Iain Vigurs' move to Well looks like paying off for him as well and with McManus and Sutton in the side there is plenty of experience to draw on. McCall will have an unchanged squad from the one that faced St Johnstone which means that Paul Lawson, Stuart Carswell and Simon Ramsden are still out.
Here's what McCall and Sutton think ahead of the game........................
tm4tj Prediction:- Tough one to call once more although given recent form Motherwell should be favourites to take all three points. They have conceded plenty of goals though as have we, and considering what's at stake then we could take something from this game if we can cope with the threat of Ainsworth, Sutton and McFadden. Our old chum Iain Vigurs will also be a threat, especially at set pieces where his left foot seems to work particularly well against us. I'm looking forward to Ryan Christie having an impact on the game and being able to supply Billy McKay who needs to finish with a flourish after his free scoring early season form. 1-1 if we get our game plan right, if not, it could be a long night.
Hello down below.............
If we thought it was tough at the top, spare a thought for our near neighbours and Highland compatriots Ross County. They had a tremendous season last year and it looks like second season syndrome is catching up on them. Hearts are the form team in the bottom half and removing their fifteen point deduction, then one or two teams would really be in the mire. As it is, our olde gaffer Terry Butcher is having his worst nightmare as his current side Hibernian are in freefall and might yet fall right into the first division. These two meet tonight in Dingwall (Tues) and this result could have a massive say in who goes into the play-off game against high scoring Hamilton Accies, although Kilmarnock are doing their level best to keep everyone else in the SPFL.
County kept the Highland Derbies going by leaving Terry Butcher and Hibs staring into the abyss. Aberdeen beat United so that also gives Inverness the chance to close in on 4th place.