Welcome to the Jungle.
Unbeaten in four now and Richie Foran takes his squad off to Cadzow, a war torn Eastern Block concrete jungle parallel town in South Lanarkshire, now known as Hamilton, to face The Accies on the plastic pitch where fleet footedness might be the order of the day.
It's been a decent September for Foran as he has turned the fortunes of his team around with a win and two draws, following on from a victory over St Johnstone at the end of August. That was in stark contrast to four consecutive defeats that saw Inverness stuck at the foot of the Premiership, a 5-1 thrashing at Tynecastle, and out of the League Cup at the hands of Alloa. September must surely give Richie a chance at winning the Manager of the Month award, albeit an award that historically signals the start of a run of poor results. Maybe we should leave that out and just concentrate on moving up.
Stat Attack:- Inverness have won their last six games at New Douglas Park. Last season it was two wins apiece, all wins coming at away games including a stunning 3-4 win at Hamilton where long range efforts were the order of the day in somewhat blustery conditions. Biggest ever win was a 6-1 thrashing in the Scottish cup when Inverness ran riot after falling behind to an early goal. That was fourteen years ago. Five years earlier, Hamilton had come North and knocked Inverness out of the Scottish Cup 3-1. It was a brace from Paul Ritchie that made the difference.
I'll hand you over to Immortal Howden Ender for his pre-match banter where he has been checking out Saturday's opponents and casting his eye over the architectural beauty of Cadzow. There's a preview in there somewhere if you work your way through the old gits memoirs. He could be preparing to write his autobiography, Life after HMS Sneck.
Yes indeed the trip to New Douglas Park (it will never be the feckin SuperSeal Stadium) has usually been a fruitful experience for ICT and hopefully we will be leaving with another three points and moving in to the Top Six, hardly expected after our horrific start to the season. We appear to thrive on synthetic surfaces (apart from Ross Draper that is) and it may well suit the current squad of pacy players even better than previous. We have not lost a point there since January 2009. During that time we have won the last six fixtures since, scoring 15 goals and conceding only 5. At the TCS it is practically a reversal of fortune and I never realised that Hamilton were such a bogey team in Sneck. I have also realised that Hamilton must be the one team who I have never seen us get beaten by.
Three of those goals conceded away happened in the game on December 30th 2015. But in a real end to end affair we sneaked a 4-3 victory. Two free kicks by Greg Tansey and a late Polworth winner sent our hardy support home prematurely celebrating the New Year. The other game that lives in the memory was the “Farewell to Brewster” defeat in January 2009 when we serenaded (and sacked) him with the famed shoe song !!
As the Sun reported: “The shoes one day. The boot the next. Craig Brewster fell victim to fan power as he was kicked out of Inverness Caley Thistle. Fed up supporters had chanted ‘Shoes Off If You Hate Brewster’ as they lost at Hamilton. The club’s seventh straight league defeat left then stranded at the foot of the SPL. It also left them walking a relegation tightrope five years after a spectacular sprint into the top flight. Brewster has paid the price as Caley faced the biggest on-field crisis in their 15-year history.”
I can remember that we pegged Hamilton back in the last 20 minutes and came close to equalising three times. My heart was in my mouth and I kept on saying to maself, "Fer fecks sake Caley, give us a break mun, DON'T feckin score and spoil our day, right eenuff "
The 4-3 was not the only high scoring match in the history of ICT and Hamilton. I was fortunate to be on holiday on 22/02/2003 when we met Hamilton in the Scottish Cup in Inverness and ended with a resounding 6-1 victory. Braces from Wyness and Robson were added to by Ritchie and McCaffrey. Bobby Mann went off injured early doors and was replaced by a young Grant Munro. And then we went ballistic again against Celtic but fell to the Argentine influenced Dundee in the semi-final at Hampden Park. And I would never have guessed at that time, how many times we would be heading to Mount Vernon.
Eight points out of the last 12, including draws against the current top two has been a breath of fresh air. Add to that an apparent attacking philosophy of the “under fire” novice manager, a growing sign of togetherness and squad options that ensures everybody is fighting for their places can only be healthy.
Hamilton are only three points behind us but we are only three points off third place. This may not be your classic six-pointer but there is a lot at stake. At first glance Hamilton’s draw with St Jones Town, after taking the lead, looks worrying. However the Perth Pack may have suffered from a gruelling cup tie less than 72 hours previous and they rang the changes at Hamilton. This included the non-appearance of Steven McLean who apparently will not play on synthetic purposes. Always preferred a bit of pure, mature grass maself.
Hamilton suffer as badly as us in transfer windows. They tend to look to youth rather than spending and that appears to have kept them afloat in the Premiership. They still have a number of decent players like Grant Gillespie, Darian MacKinnon and Ali Crawford (being touted for a Scotland cap) and then there is the Peter Pan of Neds - Dougie Imrie - who always appears to go up a gear against us. Add to that the youth of Eamonn Brophy and new Under 21 player Greg Docherty, who has already got 50 games under his belt. The problem appears to be that they simply do not know their first XI. Canning is a novice and tactically is suspect. Midfielder Darren Lyon could be out for five or six weeks. Gary Woods, Jesus Garcia Tena and Craig Watson are all out, but captain Michael Devlin could return.
As far as our starting XI goes I suspect that it will simply be same again. I feel that Foran has made it clear that everyone is playing for their place and a 4-4-1-1 will suit as away from home. At the moment we have a goalie on top form, a solid back four playing together, two fine holding players with Tansey as the creator, two wide players with pace, possibly the player of the month in the hole and Doumbouya's goal will probably keep him ahead of Fisher. Doran must be close to starting but I don't feel that Richie could justify dropping either Mulraney or King. I wonder what Scott Boden is thinking about all of this? David Raven and Kev McNaughton are our only absentees. Ryan Esson has been struggling with an elbow injury, but Lewis Horner could be fit enough to cover any defensive mishaps.
But should we even start Draper after what happened at Killie last season? Some people are simply not matched to playing on synthetic surfaces. Draper's playing style, running from deep and the loping stride are wide open to injury. Perhaps like McLean from St Jones Town we should take the risk of resting him and playing either Fisher or Boden ; Boden being a better match for Doumbouya.
And if ya think our Young Team are mischievous, then their counterparts – The Hamilton Young Fannies – appear to be getting a ten times worse reputation. Last time we were there they were “challenging” some Canadian school sports team - mixed genders, probably about 12 or 13, and their teachers – who were probably having a day out !! By the way the Canadians were the Winnipeg ICT Supporters Club on tour. Good job the neds did not cross over cos they would have been ice hockey sticked to puck.
And last but clearly not least. What watering hole will be allowed into. On my previous trips to Hamilton we have faced Home Supporters Only greetings. So basically Hamilton is a shithole where you need to spend the least amount of time possible. So it is a case of grabbing a few beers and double voddies in Glesga, grabbing a train which thankfully stops beside the Stadium, grab a few goals, three points and back on the train as soon as possible. Kinda spoils the idea of the Away Day experience though.
At least Superseal, the sponsors, are a Home Improvement Company. I might ask if my uncle can get a job as he would be an asset in that type of environment. He is a bulldozer driver.
Disclaimer:- This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental............. But these videos from Caley Jags TV are the real thing.
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