Man of the Match Don Cowie was the match winner today. His 6th minute strike for the Caley Jags was enough to secure the points and pull the team up one place in the table.
For the second game in succession, there was a red card produced, but this time it was the Buddies Will Haining who got two yellows and not one of the ICT players.
|24/11/07||Tulloch Caledonian Stadium|
|INVERNESS CT||1 Cowie (6)|
Yeam: Fraser, Proctor, McGuire, Munro, Hastings, Wilson (Rankin 63), Cowie, Duncan, McBain, Niculae, Wyness (McAllister 90)
Subs: Brewster, Vigurs, Duff, McCaffrey, Malkowski
Team: Smith, Van Zanten, Millen, Haining, Miranda, Brady (Birchall 55), Mason (O'Donnell 81), Murray, Corcoran, Mehmet, Kean
Subs: McGinn, McCay, Barron, Potter, Howard
Since both teams have come head to head in the SPL, there has never been more than one goal separating the sides, and this match was never going to be any different. St Mirren came to Inverness with the prospect of going 8 points clear of ICT with a game in hand, so for ICT this was a must win fixture. The prospect of climbing further away from Gretna was also at the back of the mind.
The only real surprise in the line ups was the loss of Ian Black, whom after his ‘huff’ against Motherwell a fortnight previous couldn’t get a place on the bench. Bayne and Rossco were both suspended for this fixture, again due to actions during the visit of Motherwell. The back 4 lined up Proctor, McGuire, Munro and Hastings with Fraser keeping his place in the ICT goal. Wilson, Duncan, Cowie and McBain filled the midfield with options in front through Wyness and Niculae.
Former ICT star, Craig Dargo, was not included for this fixture with prolonged injury keeping him out of the side. Smith, Van Zanten, Mason, Haining, Murray, Mehmet, Brady, Corcoran, Miranda, Millen and Kean completing the starting opponents.
It was ICT who took kick off with Allan Crawford officiating, and it was St Mirren who had the first opportunity 4 minutes in. From the first corner of the game, taken from the right, ICT managed to scramble the ball clear with no real threat from the St Mirren front line. Early on Stewart Kean and Franco Miranda combined well to maintain some slight pressure to the back 4, but Procter was always on hand to clear the danger.
Caley’s first attack resulted in a superbly taken goal from Don Cowie to put them 1-0 ahead on just 7 minutes. Some fine one-touch passing in the centre of the park resulted in Roy McBain picking up the ball to deliver a lovely weighted cross from the corner of the box for Cowie to volley on the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner. Smith appeared to get a slight touch to it, but without a strong wrist to push it wide.
The first half didn’t see many more great chances for either side, although Marius Niculae was showing some great ball control and link play with Wilson and Wyness. Dennis was clearly liking the ball played to feet more than the long punt up the park, and he managed to hold off the defence on a few occasions to hold up the play.
Don Cowie was unable to make it 2-0 on 25 minutes. David Proctor, providing strong sliding tackles and very little in terms of mistakes, found himself assisting in some fine passing movements to deliver this opportunity. High and wide with this effort, but St Mirren remained on the backfoot for the next few minutes building up to half time. Niculae had a chance to run at the St Mirren defence soon after the goal kick, with a rare error from the Saints midfield allowing Russel Duncan to slot through for Marius. He checked past one defender with another to beat, and his snap shot appeared to take a deflection just wide of the post. To the surprise and disgust of the Caley Thistle support, a goal kick was awarded, allowing St Mirren to show they were not down and out in this fixture.
Richard Hastings seemed to leave his man all to often in the first half, leaving Mark Corcoran with enough space to create an opportunity. David Proctor on hand to clear for a corner. Strong defending from Marius Niculae saw him clash heads with Miranda on the 6 yard box and the game was paused momentarily.
Half Time: 1-0
Not by any means the most entertaining game of football so far, and far from the performance a few years back that saw would be 1st Div Champions St Mirren get gubbed 5-0!!! St Mirren came out fighting in the second half and created their first real chance of a goal. Stewart Kean, who has been the burden of so many teams during his career, was unable to remain stable in the wet conditions. His turn and shot after some nice link play saw his effort head high and wide of target with 50 minutes on the clock.
From Fraser’s kick out, Cowie set Marius Niculae on yet another run. Wyness would have been a better option in hindsight, as Marius’ snap shot from just outside the box was not hit cleanly enough, and the slippery ball was easily gathered by Chris Smith.
Wyness was evidently enjoying the ball played to feet, and had we stuck to the usual long ball routine, he would have certainly been out the game. His wee dinks to create chances, his ability to hold the ball up and his partnership with Niculae up front ensured we maintained decent spells of pressure in the early stages.
The second half was end to end stuff for the majority, and St Mirren’s next chance came from a Free Kick on 53 minutes. Phil McGuire, who was having a good game in central defence, was on hand to clear off the line and set the midfield off. Russel Duncan, who was the match day sponsors eventual man of the match, sent the ball through to Niculae, who in turn provided Dennis Wyness with an opportunity to extend the lead. Once again the weather conditions making the game play sloppy, and Dennis could only see his weak shot saved once again by Chris Smith.
St Mirren's best chances of the game fell in the last 20-25 minutes. Alan Millen provided a deep free kick into the box which was headed onto his own post by Phil McGuire. A fortunate escape! Franco Miranda on the right, was causing lots of problems for Richard Hastings and Grant Munro, and eventually managed on the odd occasion to provide decent deliveries into the box.
With the continued pressure at the back, Inverness struggled to get the ball to the front pairing, and with the introduction of John Rankin, the ICT faithful were expecting good things. Stewart Kean and Gary Mason had superb opportunities to level the score with the later seeing a decent volley flash past Frasers’ left hand post, whilst Kean was only able to fire wide when one on one with the Caley number one. Approximately 10 minutes remained on the clock, and the Buddies were reduced to 10 men. Marius Niculae was released down the right flank, and managed to thunder his was past Gary Mason before being chopped down by Will Haining. Had he not already been booked it would have surely been a straight red. There seemed to be no real attempt to play the ball, and the referee had no hesitation in producing a second yellow card.
John Rankin provided one of his trademark free kicks into the box and Niculae was unable to connect. The ball was cleared only as far as Russel Duncan. Provided with acres of space, Duncan was able to shoot from 25 yards but could not test the keeper.
Referee Crawford had an indifferent game, with some decisions questionable. Deflected shots wide were not given as corners, strong tackles were awarded but some players went unpunished, but the most questionable decision came on 84 minutes. Marius Niculae managed to fight his way through for an attempt on goal, and was seemingly pulled back in the box. Cries of Penalty from players and fans fell of deaf ears and play was waved on. Inverness continued to hold on for a deserved and much needed victory. Craig Brewster said pre match that he wanted an early goal and it is that which proved decisive in keeping 3 points in Inverness.
Full Time: 1-0
St Mirren now lie just one point ahead of Inverness in ninth with a game in hand, with that victory meaning ICT climb out of the bottom two for the first time this season. Falkirk taking their place above Gretna.
3,699 were in attendance on a wet and windy day at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, and most were glad to not only see a victory, but some well worked play by the front two, some solid defending at times by McGuire and Proctor (whom replaced McCaffrey and Tokely) and John Rankin showing why he should regain his status as a first team regular. Still work to be done mind, and perhaps some play seen on the training field should be brought into the fray on the park.
Onwards and upwards to the dizzy heights of 9th for us next time round with a decent display at Tannadice? Lets hope so!!!