It's Scottish Cup time.
A break from the rigours of the Championship this weekend as we travel to the City of Discovery to discover if Dundee are any better than they were when we left them in the Premiership, or are we any worse.
It's the Fourth Round of the competition and that opens it up for the big boys. It also creates the opportunity for some banana skin ties. We have been an integral part of the major shocks section over the years, none greater than knocking Celtic out of the competition on three occasions.
However, John Robertson won't consider this a shock should we advance to the next round. Speaking to the press ahead of the game Robbo said: “It’s a free one for us as no one expects us to go to Dundee and win but I do as that’s the way I am. I expect us to win every game, that’s the attitude I want from my players. We have been preparing for Dundee this week, while they have watched us three times and I’m sure they will give us a massive amount of respect. Neil McCann is a very clever manager and they’ve got good players. If we play the way we’ve been playing, and pass the ball the way we have been, we’ve got an opportunity to go there and cause an upset in other people’s minds but not in mine.”
The last time we played each other in the Scottish Cup was at Hampden in 2003 and John Robertson was in charge then as well. We had a tremendous side back then with great strikers like Dennis Wyness and Paul Ritchie with Barry Robson out wide. What we would give for that quality right now. Back then Dundee boasted an array of foreign stars. We had Ross Tokely, Roy Macbain Stuart Golabek, Russel Duncan and of course the great Bobby Mann amongst others. Great occasion for Inverness at the time, something we would go on to better in 2015.
We started the game the better side and Dennis Wyness smacked the top of the post via the keepers fingertips with a ferocious right foot shot from 35 yards. "Here we go" we all thought but it was not to be as Georgi Nemsadze scored the only goal. Dundee had eased into the game and their undoubted talent shone through in the end. That was the semi-final and we went down to that scuffed Georgi Nemsadze strike late in the game (think Joe Chalmers) and bowed out of the competition having eliminated Raith Rovers, Hamilton Accies and Celtic. However, Dundee went on to lose the final 1-0 thanks to a Lorenzo Amoruso goal giving Rangers the trophy.
Fifteen years on from then and we have been drawn away at Dens Park for this fourth round tie, as both clubs enter the 2018 competition. It's coming up for three years since we lifted this trophy. Ahhh, those were the days!
Our last visit to Dens Park offered us a glimmer of hope in the battle to avoid relegation. It was Richie Forans final fling and we beat Dundee 2-0 thanks to early goals from Billy Mckay and Alex Fisher. We did beat Motherwell 3-2 in the last game of the season, alas it was too little too late for Inverness and Foran as we were relegated thanks to Hamilton stuffing Dundee 4-0 and Richie got his P45. Thanks, we owe you one for that.
Our season took a while to get off and running, but a seven game run of clean sheets has seen us steady the ship and we are now building nicely towards a promotion play-off slot. Our last two outings have seen us pick up maximum points and scoring seven goals against Falkirk and Queen of the South.
Dundee are sitting third bottom of the Premiership, only Partick Thistle and Ross County are below them. They too had an inauspicious start to their campaign. They qualified from their group in the League Cup, drawing 1-1 with Dundee United in the final group game (United won 4-3 on penalties). They gained revenge in the next round beating the Arabs 2-0, but their League form was poor. Only one point from their first five games before beating St Johnstone and then crashing out of the League Cup 4-0 at the hands of Celtic. They picked up zero points in October before they beat Rangers 2-1 at the end of September. Three wins in December saw them get off the foot of the table before the winter break and that takes them to this encounter with Inverness.
Robbo will be without Carl Tremarco for a couple of months with a hamstring injury. Riccardo Calder deputised last week and should continue. Nathan Austin missed out similarly against Queen of the South and that opened the door for a Bell-Oakley strike pairing.
Neil McCann has been busy getting some players tied up on longer deals during the winter break. They have extended the deal for young defender Kerr Waddell, and Spanish defender Jon Aurtenetxe has signed on for the rest of the season. A-Jay Leitch-Smith, the man with more hyphens than a hyphen shop has also extended his loan deal.
tm4tj prediction:- Given our recent impressive form and this chance to let our hair down, I'm looking for a minimum of a replay here, although with cup ties, you never know. With Coll Donaldson knitting the defence together at the back, Iain Vigurs, orchestrating the engine room (should he remain on the park), and our strikers having the audacity to score goals, things are looking a lot healthier than they were three months go. This will be a step up in overall quality for our new look side, but we are showing more resilience and if we can keep the Dark Blues at bay, then let's hope we can continue our recent scoring spree and get something from this game. A couple of guys to look out for - Loan signing and former Shrewsbury player A-Jay Leitch-Smith who is their top League scorer this season with five. Tunisian Sofien Moussa from Lokomotiv Gorna seems like a tricky customer with an eye for goal as well, so great test for our re-born defence. One player who will be familiar is of course Josh Meekings, fondly remembered for his unorthodox style in keeping the ball out of the net against Celtic.
Here is a link to The Dark Blues website where I answered a few questions put to me by Daniel Smith from the Dark Blues.