Derby Day to end the Year
If ever Inverness needed an away derby win it's tomorrow. Sitting bottom of the pile as we approach 2017, you could say it's not been the best season so far for the Caley Jags, or Richie Foran the rookie manager given the job of keeping this club in the position it has earned over the years.
The Highland derby takes on a rather sinister desperation tag with neither club able to establish a clear gap to safety, although defeat in Dingwall will be more damaging for Inverness than it would be for County at this stage of the campaign. County have been flirting with the top-six for a few weeks now, but only one win in their last six and defeats in their last two have seen them move down a couple of notches to eighth, albeit only four points above bottom placed Inverness who are without a win in nine games now.
We are in a poor run of results recently, three points from a possible twenty-seven is relegation form and the bookies are starting to lean towards us as Championship contenders. In saying that, some of our performances have merited more. We played Rangers off the park at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago and lost 1-0, mainly due to our inability to capitalise on the opportunities created. We were a touch unfortunate to lose at home against Motherwell. Dominating for long spells, we hit the woodwork twice and had a decent penalty claim turned down whilst Motherwell scored a freak wind assisted goal and a breakaway to steal the points. Unfortunately that has been a consistent theme throughout our season so far which has gained us only three wins from twenty league games. County are in no position to scoff, they have only four wins, but that's enough to keep them above us at the moment.
County's last two games ended in defeat at the hands of Hamilton and Celtic. Those defeats came off the back of an excellent 2-1 win over Aberdeen. Our stats are worse, six defeats in eight games and only two draws. However, despite all that, we have scored more goals than County but we have also conceded more, and that makes County's goal difference one worse than our at minus fourteen.
County did win the first fixture this season by the odd goal in five at the Caledonain Stadium. Nine yellow cards and five goals, ye cannae whack a local derby. A Liam Boyce hat-trick did the damage with Inverness doing the usual too little too late routine replying through Scott Boden (who???) and Ross Draper.
With the bulk of last season's squad still playing for Inverness, the focus is turning to Richie Foran as the fans begin to question his suitability for the job. It was an appointment met with enthusiasm by most, and trepidation by a few. Brian Rice was kept on as his number two and we all hoped that would help to keep a bit of continuity. However, the stats don't lie and we find ourselves in the midst of our longest winless run for ten years. One clean sheet is not ideal either, and a stat that is doing the rounds is that this is the lowest points total that we have accrued after twenty games in any season in our entire history. These observations and statistics tell me something is wrong and not a lot has been done about it so far, either before, during or after games. The last time we were in this predicament we left it too late to avoid the drop, don't let it happen again, for it won't be so easy to bounce back again.
We started against Motherwell with the same narrow selection we used successfully at Ibrox. We normally apply a bit of width at home but kept Doran, Mulraney and King on the bench whilst deploying Polworth in a wider role than he is best suited to, with Vigurs similarly on the left of midfield. I'm no Alex Ferguson, but surely we need to employ wide players if we are using a target man as our main striker. Here's hoping we get our tactics better at Dingwall and get the result we need.
Richie Foran is still waiting to hear back from Fulham regarding an extension to Larnell Cole's contract. It would appear that the young loan player would like to remain here for now, but Fulham have not replied yet, so clarification required there. Foran also wants to hear no more talk of luck: "There's no more mention of luck from me. You make your own luck. We're bottom because we deserve to be. You need to be ruthless and clinical, which we haven't been."
Ross County look set to be without Chris Burke (virus) and Michael Gardyne, both struggling for fitness and Ian McShane is still out. Kenny van der Weg will be back in contention for a start after suspension. Young midfielder Reghan Tumilty got an airing at Parkhead and did very well using his pace to good effect.
Inverness CT have no fresh worries, but long term outs are Kev McNaughton, David Raven and Lewis Horner. Goalkeeping issues are still prevalent but Owain Fon Williams will play through the pain with Esson still struggling with his groin. Alex Fisher came on as a sub against Motherwell and is maybe due a start alongside Lonsana Doumbouya who is finding the lone striker role difficult with nobody around to help him. Greg Tansey has openly stated his desire to leave at the end of the season, but he has also stated that will not affect how he handles himself while playing for ICT.
tm4tj prediction:- It does all sound pretty drastic at the moment, but it only takes two or three good results and then we will be able to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. The downside of that is another couple of defeats will point us in the wrong direction. However, the winter break is looming, as is the transfer window so it could all change quickly. On top of that we have an excellent record at Dingwall in recent years. We have won the last five fixtures at the Global Energy Stadium and I'm backing us to do it again, maybe without a clean sheet, but it's points that matter just now.
Happy New Year to you all.