Time to stand up and be counted
Inverness face St Johnstone this Saturday as they look to avoid a fifth straight defeat, but this could prove difficult as it comes hot on the heels of a 5-1 thrashing at Tynecastle, not to mention a derby disaster, a dumping out of the League cup by League One Alloa and an opening day loss at Partick.
Aye Richie, nobody said it was going to be easy, but the fans are finding it difficult to understand how this season has become a struggle already as we are in danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the table only three games in. With St Johnstone, Aberdeen and Celtic to come, it could get worse before it gets better.
We have already lost the services of Kevin McNaughton, probably out for the season with an Achilles injury as we find it difficult to keep the ball out of our net. Josh Meekings returned at Tynecastle, but he will need game time to get back to full match sharpness and he must have wondered what has happened as we shipped goals like nobody's business. David Raven was retained at the end of last season, despite Yogi trying his best to move him on. Has fan-power overruled shrewd judgement here as Rave has not coped well since his reinstatement. Mind you, he is not alone as the normally reliable Gary Warren has looked vulnerable, posted missing, presumably trying to cover for missing defenders easily pulled out of position. Carl Tremarco showed what he could do towards the end of last season, but we have yet to see the best of him in this campaign. Was it wrong to let Danny Devine leave without trying too hard to tempt him to stay? Our midfield has not changed that much, but our one paced engine room are simply going through the motions. Tansey, Polworth, Vigurs and the exempt from criticism Ross Draper. These guys should be a match for any team outside the top two or three, but already look jaded. The addition of exciting prospect Jake Mulraney should be providing the width we have been screaming for over the last couple of seasons and Billy King and the returning Aaron Doran should compliment that. Striking looks to be our weakest area with the jury still out on Scott Boden and Alex Fisher, but that does not explain the fact that we have conceded eight goals in our last two games.
To the untrained eye it would appear that not much has changed apart from the results, and the manager! Foran has taken on this job much to the delight and backing of most of the Caley Thistle support, however, has our hearts ruled our heads here. A Premiership club taking on an untried manager with no previous experience anywhere and apart from a four year deal, little monetary backing from the board as of now. It does smack of the cheap option. Maybe we are still paying for Yogi? When has a new manager not taken in his own second in command, yet Richie has to make do with a used product in Brian Rice; seconds anyone? Can we not afford to pay him off either? It all smacks of a sorry mess with Richie trying to paper over the cracks. Maybe the writing was on the wall when Laura was released from the ticket office in what looks like a penny pinching exercise. Why else would you remove your highest achiever?
Anyway, our immediate concern is on the park, and points are proving more difficult to find than those pokemon gadgies. St Johnstone are surely confident of coming North and taking the points given our recent demise. We have found it difficult enough to beat them in recent times and seven points went to Perth Last season with only one solitary point going to the Highland Capital. I always feel we should be able to match the Perth outfit on and off the park, but we are finding that difficult on both counts at the moment.
Tommy Wright is as decent a manager as there is in the Premiership, guiding St Johnstone to fourth over the last two seasons whilst we finished in with the also rans last term. They have added full back Richard Foster from Ross County and defender Keith Watson from St Mirren. Midfielders Paul Paton from Dundee United and Blair Alston from Falkirk look to be their key signings and will add plenty of class and a bit of dig. Amongst their departures are the experienced striker John Sutton and midfielders Simon Lappin and Scott Brown. Like Foran, Wright is still searching for Mr Right up front before the transfer window closes.
The Perth team won two of the three games last season in what are usually pretty dour encounters, notoriously bereft of goalmouth incidents. I'm painting a pretty bleak picture here, unfortunately that's how it is and the fans are getting frustrated over our dismal start to the league after a reasonable League Cup run that ended with an at that time unexpected defeat to Alloa Athletic.
We were absolutely thrashed at Tynecastle last week with Hearts scoring five going on fifteen. That was preceded by a dismal derby defeat at home. Eight
gifts goals in two games smacks of heads going down. St Johnstone were capitulating against Celtic, but did score a couple of late goals in the second half, so they still have some fight in them, something we need to display.
Can we expect to see an upturn in our fortunes? Well, I was excited at the prospect of our campaign given the goals we racked up prior to matchday one. However, the wind has been taken right out of our sails and we are well and truly in the doldrums now. Strangely though, if we can make the breakthrough and cut out the comedy defending, we might see our first point on the board. Billy King will be available again after having to sit out the Hearts game (parent club ruling) and Aaron Doran is working his way back into contention. Jake Mulraney has declared himself injury free after being taken off at Tynecasle with cramp, but Kev McNaughton is out long term. Owain Fon Williams could do worse than sit on the bench with maybe the experienced Ryan Esson due a recall to cut out some of these free headers we have been subject to. I also wonder if it's time for Lewis Horner to step up to the plate. That might horrify some, but it could be the lesser of two evils. Hopefully Gary Warren will get his mojo back with Josh Meekings likely to be alongside him. Now then, it's time for our midfield to stand up and be counted before we get any worse or they might find themselves on the
dole bench as well.
We had Farid El Alagui on trial over the last couple of weeks but although he showed up well in friendlies he has not been signed. Another pair of trialists turned out for our development squad in midweek and they are reported to be Gavin Gunning (yes, he of the picking up the ball and walking off the park fame), and Spanish third tier striker Jamar Loza who has been declined a contract. With Kevin McNaughton out for the season, we do need another centre back, but come on, Gavin Gunning!
On a positive note, forward, Lonsana Doumbouya (26) joins Inverness from Belgian second division club Cercle Brugge on a 2 year deal (subject to clearance). Lonsana is a big lad at over 6 foot 3 inches and sounds like he could be an ideal target man. Richie Foran reckons he will add pace and power to our front line, something that has been lacking of late. Good luck to him and I hope he is the answer to our striking problems. Foran is hopeful he can be included in the squad for the game tomorrow. Here he is talking about signing for the Caley Jags.
Managers advice: It will be worth keeping an eye on Steve MacLean and Danny Swanson. MacLean has hit the target five times and in form Swanson has seven goals to his name. You have been warned.
St Johnstone's Tam Scobbie, Dave Mackay and Keith Watson all miss out through injury, however, Chris Millar and Michael Coulson could return after both failed to feature at Parkhead last week.
Interesting times ahead. Defeat against St Johnstone is not really an option and it's now time for Foran the friend to be be binned and Foran the manager to enter the scene. I'm going for a home win. Yes, I may be going off my head, but we have to start sooner rather than later, so let's do this on Saturday, for everyone's sake. I'm just not sure where the goals are going to come from though.