The Eagle versus the Lion.
The visitors this weekend are Livingston, a side we have had some great tussles with over the years as we came through the ranks together. Some common denominators are, Robbo once managed Livi, Barry Wilson played for both sides as did Davide Xausa, Mark McCulloch, Steve Hislop, Liam Fox, Coll Donaldson and the talented David Bingham.
Just as we have come a long way since the amalgamation of Inverness Thistle and Inverness Caledonian, Livingston have also made an arduous journey since beginning life as Ferranti Thistle in 1943 and making their way to Livingston via Meadowbank Thistle.
The clubs have had mixed fortunes since the heady days back in the late 90's. Both have tasted European football, both have dabbled in the Premier Division, both have had Barry Wilson, and both are back in the Championship. Livi almost tasted liquidation in 2009 and Inverness are noted for their ability to survive on a shoestring, but they will meet on league business for the first time since April 2006 when Inverness won 0-1 thanks to a Barry Wilson goal. Livi were so good in those days that not even Robert Snodgrass or Graham Dorrans could get a start. Richard Brittain and Wes Hoolahan did though. Inverness boasted some great servants of their own, with Dennis Wyness, Craig Dargo, Darren Dods and Ross Tokely all starting. Rory McAllister was a sub, (whatever happened to him). There was a league cup game at the same venue in 2015 where Inverness ran out 0-2 winners with Miles Storey and Danny Devine both scoring.
Livi came up at the end of last season after winning the League 1 title. They will be without 27 goal Liam Buchanan who has opted to remain in that league with Raith Rovers (how strange). He is the biggest loss for Livi and it could be argued that keeper Neil Alexander will be their best signing for this season. The former Rangers and Hearts keeper returns to Livingston after a 16 year exile. His longest spell was at Cardiff City where he made 213 appearances.
The form guide for this season shows that Livi have one win, three draws and one defeat. Unlike us, they have remained competitive in every game, their only loss was a 3-1 defeat to St Mirren. That results give them six points from the five games played, and they sit one place above us in the league. Josh Mullin and Dylan Mackin were the men on target in their last outing when they drew 2-2 with Queen of the South.
Our last game against St Mirren went pear shaped as we gifted a couple of goals. We showed good character to get back on level terms twice, but eventually were beaten by the better side. Whilst it was pleasing that a striker scored (John Baird), it's a tad worrying that the defence once again contrived to throw away goals like they are going out of fashion, with Mark Ridgers not covering himself in glory once more. It's been a torrid start for Ridgers, but the whole defence need to give him a bit more assistance as he is seen as the scapegoat for numerous blunders in the final third of the pitch.
John Robertson has three long term absentees, Aaron Doran, Zak Elbouzedi and Collin Seedorf. Carl Tremarco has returned to the squad after a couple of cameo appearances from the bench although he did not get on the pitch at Paisley, the intensity of that game maybe coming just too soon for our enigmatic left back given the length of time out after ligament damage. Gary Warren returned last week but even his appearance failed to steady the defence. Ricardo Calder is a doubt.
David Hopkin, the former Scotland international has taken Livingston forward with a purpose. Winning the title last season by a massive nineteen points. The Livi Lions last line-up looked like this. Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Longridge, Byrne, Mullin, Pitman, Jacobs (Carrick 78), Todorov (Makin 61), Mullen (De Vita 78)
tm4tj prediction:- As we all knew before the season started there will be no easy games in the Championship. Forget what has happened in previous years, this is a new build team where getting to know each other is a priority. Until that happens, we will not see the best of our new look squad although there are some signs that we are beginning to head along the right track. Livi have competed well in all their games so far and could easily have turned a couple of draws into wins. We will need to cut out the schoolboy defending and comedy keeping before we can contemplate winning games. The midfield is beginning to take shape and Liam Polworth is flourishing in a more direct role which will hopefully create more space for the main strikers to work. John Baird did score last week, so that particular monkey is off the back. We need to get bodies forward in numbers, especially at home and if we can cut out the errors, then we could reap the benefits and take all three points. I'll stick my neck out here and go for a 3-1 win, and that's allowing for the given comedy goal for our opponents. If the comedy is overpowering, then it could be a long day.
The club are firing out Previews in style at the moment and here's the official one with some finer details from the ICTFC Website.
Here's a bit of nostalgia for you. Cast your mind back to the old second division in 1999.........