Despite Kilmarnock coming out of the blocks the quickest to test ICT Goalkeeper Michael Fraser they did little else to threaten the Caley Jags for the remainder of the game.
A fine free-kick from Dougie Imrie saw him score his first goal for the club. The second goal was awarded as an o.g. to Lilley and we'll have to wait for the television replay, but there's every chance that McBain had a foot on it.
Marius Niculae scored the third with a World Class finish on 79 minutes, and got booked for jumping the hoardings to celebrate in front of a Romanian flag. All in all it was a successful day at the office.
|Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Inverness
|INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE
|3 Imrie (10) Lilley OG (71) Niculae (79)
Team: Fraser, Tokely, Proctor, Munro (Paatelainen 86), Hastings, Wilson (Hart 72), McBain, Cowie, Imrie, Niculae (McAllister 86), Wyness
SUBS: Vigurs, Black, Kerr, Malkowski
Team: Combe, Fowler, Lilley, Hay, O'Leary, Clancy, Invincible, Flannigan, Locke (Hammil 63), Wales (Dalglish 60), Fernandaz (Di Giacomo 68)
SUBS: Rascle, Murray, Ford, McInnes
This was the first of our post-split fixtures and as has been the case since the introduction of the split setup the run in to the end of the season becomes an almost meaningless affair, even more so this season as events at Gretna have already confirmed them as taking the drop. Things haven’t been too great at ICT since the start of the year with only 2 wins, both against Gretna, to be shown for “efforts” on the park, so I went in to this game with very little expectation and simply wanting to see some entertaining football and a bit of team cohesiveness and fight. Some indication that we were making the turn and starting to get things back on track seemed to be the common wish for those who ha met up before the match for a swift pint (or four) before heading to the Stadium.
The meeting in the Innes turned up a surprise visitor for many as Scotty (site owner) had arrived from Canada earlier in the week, and the moment got a little more surreal when it transpired that Canuck, also from Toronto, was to be in attendance. Despite only living a (relatively) short distance from each other in Canada, the Innes Bar was, yet again, to prove to be the International meeting point for ICT fans. With vocal cords suitably lubricated it was off to the game. The sun was shining, spirits were high and with any luck the result wouldn’t spoil the day.
The game got off to a relatively slow start, but Kilmarnock were creating the early chances with Michael Fraser called in to action to tip one over the bar and then see another safely round the post. In fact, things were so slow in the first 10 minutes that we found the idiotic antics of a Steward far more entertaining as he childishly tried to “stare down” the fans in Section G….although it later transpired he might have actually been in a Coma as he had to be woken from his slumber twice by his supervisor….lol. A huge Cheer then erupted from the Caley Jags faithful…oh damn, we’d missed our opening goal…apparently it was a well taken free-kick where Imrie managed to dupe the defensive wall and stick it straight in the back of the net for his first ever ICT goal. Eyes back on the game now, we weren’t going to miss anything else. Their wasn’t much to split the teams during the first 45 minutes of the match other than Caley Thistle creating more chances at the front. Barry Wilson and Dougie Imrie were delivering some great balls into the box, and they were coming with pace which was catching out the Kilmarnock defence...and unfortunately our own players too who have been more used to long balls or floated balls into the area in recent weeks (and months). We were getting contact on the ball, but were a little slow to get the feet off the ground to get above them and send them downwards instead of over the bar. Wyness, Niculae and Cowie all recorded half decent efforts before the half and our back four looked comfortable as they kept Kilmarnock at bay and made it a quiet half for Michael Fraser.
HALF TIME: Inverness CT 1 v 0 Kilmarnock
For the first time in long enough I can’t imagine Brewster would have had too much to shout about during the break. The first half had been slow, but it was controlled and the team were playing as a unit. If anything Brewster would be asking them to just pick up the pace a little. Both teams came on for the second half looking as if they were going to lift the tempo, but still Kilmarnock had little to offer in the final third of the pitch, and had it not been for their defensive it could have easily turned into a more comprehensive battering. Tokely was first to get a shot away within a minute of the re-start when he found himself with the ball on the right and he stuck his head down and made for goal. His shot from just inside the 18 yard box going narrowly wide on the left. The longer the game went on, the more comfortable ICT looked on the ball and the more Kilmarnock fell out of it. We were getting the ball down and passing it well in all areas of the park. Wilson and Imrie were commanding the wide areas, Cowie was sitting comfortable in the centre and McBain was covering ground like a man possessed…not in a long time have I seen one player appear in so many places on the park, and he was doing it with real purpose creating chances like they were going out of fashion. His rewards were to come in the 71st minute when his perseverance saw him chasing down a ball and pressuring Kilmarnock’s Lilley. Hard to tell who got the final touch on the ball, but no doubt at all that it beat a scrambling Combe to go in at the bottom corner to make it 2-0 to Caley Thistle.
So far we’d seen Tokely miss narrowly wide and head one over, a Wilson shot saved, a Wyness lob tipped over the bar and Cowie shot also go over…so we were creating plenty of chances and getting our rewards. Wilson had taken a knock around about the hour mark so it wasn’t surprising to see him substituted in the 72nd minute. With Hart having already signed a pre-contract with Ross County for next season it was a little surprising to see him come on to the field and being 2 goals up it would have been nice to see one of the younger lads getting a chance, but que sera…Hart came on and slotted in well without upsetting the controlled and effective formation we’d been displaying all afternoon. Wyness hadn’t having his typical type game and looked a bit rusty when it came to the twists and turns we expect, but he had been doing a great job of holding up the ball and allowing us to get forward in numbers to support. This had been showing for almost the entire game when we seemed to have 5 or 6 guys in or around the goal for every cross ball and attacking play.
A double corner was to lead to our next goal. Kilmarnock cleared the first but it came straight back at them and they were forced to play it out for a second corner. This too was cleared but not far enough and the ball came back to Niculae who was sitting on the right hand edge of the 18 yard box with only the on rushing keeper between him and the goal. He showed his class by staying composed and lifting the ball over and round Combe to find the back of the net and make it 3-0 for the Highlanders on 79 mins. If anyone ever doubted Niculae's passion for the game or the team then that was firmly put to bed as he showed his appreciation to the fans by jumping the wall to go and meet them in celebration. It might have resulted in the only card of the game, but you can be sure the fans aren’t complaining and chants of “Marius Niculae” were belted forth from the stands…his contract might have been the cause of some tension behind the scenes, but there’s no doubting that he is a firm favourite among the Caley Thistle followers. A double substitution on 86 minutes for ICT saw Niculae and Munro being replaced by McAllister and Paatelainen. Not sure if it was some streetwise antics by Niculae or not, but he made a bit of a meal in leaving the field to run down a little more of the clock, and ensured he shook the referees hand on the way. Both he and Munro were applauded from the park and deservedly so as both had had a great game. The final shot of the game came from Hart from 20 yards out after McAllister looked to pass up the opportunity for himself and send the ball into the middle. Once again Combe denied us a goal, but when your 3-0 up, nobody really cares.
FULL TIME: Inverness CT 3 v 0 Kilmarnock
Overall the game was pretty much what I had been hoping for. It wasn’t the worlds best ever display, but we were solid, we were passing well and creating chances. Our defence was solid at the back for the whole 90 minutes and we were once again playing as a complete unit. One Swallow does not make a summer…but our performance in the last 3 games has been much improved and the signs are there that we are starting to turn the corner. It’s off to Tynecasle next week to play Hearts and I’m sure todays results will go along way to adding a few to the crowd for that one….long may it continue.