Killie Challenge for Caley Jags
It's the long haul this Saturday as we head for Rugby Park to take on sixth place Kilmarnock, a mere three points ahead of us in eleventh spot. With seven teams vying for the last top-six space and relegation at the same time, it's anyone's guess as to who is the favourites for these positions.
Often a fruitful day out in previous years, but we have faltered in the last two fixtures at Rugby Park going down on both occasions. The first encounter of this season was in the Highlands and it ended with the points shared, but it took a very late goal from Lonsana Doumbouya to cancel out an early Coulibaly penalty. We had won the previous one at Inverness at the end of last season quite comfortably and many expected an easier ride than we got from a revamped Kilmarnock side, but they are proving to be a match for all in the top-six relegation battle. I know it's a bit early in the season to be calling it a relegation battle, but that's the nature of the beast. If you are not going for Europe, then it's a downhill struggle below that.
Killie have clambered to sixth slot but like the rest are showing signs of fluctuating fortunes. A 2-0 win over Dundee was followed by a 5-1 thrashing at Pittodrie before steadying the ship last week with a goalless draw at Motherwell.
We ended a run of four straight defeats by drawing at home to Hamilton in what turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining game. Still hit by injury and suspension, we managed to get a team on the park and despite going behind, we came back strongly to get a deserved draw. Either side will feel they could have nicked this one but a draw keeps the status quo. Larnell Cole was our star performer against the Accies and topped it off with a fine goal, his first for the club. Clean sheets are a problem for us this season with only one so far. A changing defence through injury and suspension is not helping and the midfield need to work harder to help out the defence when needed.
Inverness will be able to call on the services of Gary Warren, back after his one match ban for his unnecessary sending off against St Johnstone. David Raven, will be offered a six month contract extension, but he is out injured for another couple of months. Liam Polworth has made great progress and has resumed full training, however this might be a game too early for the young midfielder, but a late fitness test will let us know if he is ready. Our keeper crisis is still ongoing although it looks as though Fon Williams will play through his back injury whilst Ryan Esson is still suffering with a groin injury. Better news up front is that Scott Boden looks to have shaken off his ankle knock and will be included in the squad. Other strike option Alex Fisher could also be included.
Killie have two central defenders missing for this clash. Miles Addison is out for a couple of months after having foot surgery. Jonathan Burn is also out and that means that Scott Boyd and Will Boyle are Lee Clark's only recognised centre backs available. Others missing are Kris Boyd, Greg Kiltie and full back Dapo Kayode.
tm4tj prediction:- Given that we were rubbish on the road at Dundee and Perth, I'm not filled with confidence going in to this one. On the other hand, Warren should take his place at the heart of the defence and Brad Mckay can revert to right back. Hopefully Owain Fon Williams will have less back spasms to deal with and a clean sheet will do his confidence no harm. Midfield is an area we are struggling. Ross Draper has been a constant, but Iain Vigurs leaves a lot to be desired, mainly due to his work rate although he was noticeably more active against Accies last week. Larnell Cole deserves another chance after his last performance which might mean attacking wide players Mulraney, King or Doran will be vying for the right to supply Lonsana Doumbouya with the ammunition he needs. Killie will rightly feel they have enough to be able to take all three points and we have to be wary of that. Coulibaly has proven to be a handful having scored ten times this campaign.They showed fleet of foot on the break when they came North and we will do well to match their pace going forward. Any team going on a two or three game winning streak will pull away from the rest. It's hard to see if that will be us, but a point would be a decent result.
Richie looks ahead to the plastic pitch encounter and talks about our keeper crisis.
and Dave the Rave has his say on where he is at just now................