The return of the 'Magic Hat'
It's another visit to the City of Discovery on Saturday as the Championship season kicks off with a trip to Tannadice to take on title favourites Dundee United, where we will discover if they have what it takes to get back into the premiership, or are they flattering to deceive.
We know a little about Dundee after the League Cup tie last Sunday where we bowed out of the competition after we lost 1-0 thanks to a strike from Danny Johnson. In truth, there was little between the sides and but for a calamitous goal we would still be in the event. However, we are out and can concentrate on bigger things. Dundee United also wimped out of the League Cup after a surprise 0-2 defeat by East Fife at Tannadice.
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Robbie Neilson has a wealth of talent at his disposal and if anything they could be an even better side than they were last season. The acquisition of top striker Lawrence Shankland and permanent signing of Mark Reynolds underlining their intentions. Here's the list of newbies at Tannadice: Adrian Sporle, defender (Banfield); Mark Reynolds, defender (Aberdeen, loan to permanent); Adam King, midfielder (Swansea City); Lawrence Shankland, forward (Ayr United); Liam Smith, defender (Ayr United); Deniz Mehmet, goalkeeper (Queen of the South).
Notable departures are Pavel Safranko (loan ended), Billy King, Callum Booth and Fraser Fyvie.
For the new season, Inverness have brought in five new faces. James Keatings, David Carson, Nikolay Todorov, Mitchell Curry (loan & now injured) and the return of cup final man James Vincent. We are of course a few light as well with Liam Polworth off to Motherwell, Joe Chalmers over the bridge, Nathan Austin to Kelty Hearts, Darren McCauley back to Ireland and Owain Fon Williams painting & decorating at Hamilton, but at least he's off our wage bill. Young loan player Anthony McDonald has returned to Hearts.
Tannadice was the last place we visited on Championship duty last season as we went down 3-0 in the play-offs. It all hinged on a couple of penalty decisions in both legs and a red card farewell for Polworth. At the end of the day we were ultimately well beaten. United went on to lose out to St Mirren in the decider after a penalty shoot-out. How ironic! Last season we played United seven times. Our only success was a 2-1 win at Tannadice in the Scottish Cup. United won four Championship games including the play-offs with the other two being 1-1 draws.
The Betfred League Cup has been unkind to both clubs although it's difficult to gauge just how much desire either club had to stay in the tournament. Inverness had drawn with Peterhead, beaten Raith Rovers and Cove but lost out 1-0 to Dundee at Dens Park where many thought we underperformed. The best thing about the narrow defeat showed that Dundee are little, if any, better off than us. Like us, the Arabs won twice, drew one and lost one in Group A, missing out on the best second place team back door entry into the next round as well. They defeated Stenhousemuir and Cowdenbeath, drew at Tynecastle and had a shocker against East Fife who hadn't won at Tannadice for 73 years.
What does it all mean I hear you ask? Well, the bulk of United's starting XI appear to have played against East Fife, as did ours against Dundee. Personally, these early League Cup games have a pre-season feel about them, despite the managers telling us otherwise. Unlike many fans, I'm not going to get too hung up over a narrow defeat at Dens Park against one of the sides tipped for promotion. I would be slightly more concerned if I were in Robbie Neilson's camp. McMullan, Shankland, Clark, Butcher, Stanton, Robson, all drawing a blank against East Fife. That tells me one of two things. United are at the same stage as us or East Fife are very good! We'll find out on Saturday.
Robbie Neilson took a squad of twenty down to Shrewsbury during the week and they went down 2-1. Louis Appere won, and scored a penalty to give United the lead but Shrews hit back to win. Some of United's bigger names played the final half hour in preparation for the League opener this weekend.
Inverness sent a young squad to Lossiemouth on Wednesday night to play a North of Scotland cup tie at Grant Park. They were bolstered by a handful of more experienced players and goals from Nikolay Todorov, Matheus Machado and Aaron Doran saw us progress to the next round by a 3-1 scoreline.
United have no concerns ahead of the game and Robbie Neilson, having given Inverness the once over last weekend, saw nothing different from last season. Just saying.....
Inverness will be without longer term casualties Sean Welsh and Shaun Rooney. Mitchell Curry can be added to that casualty list after coming off against Dundee and it's reported he will be out for a couple of months with ankle ligament damage. I expect we will be along similar lines to last weeks game at Dens Park. Toddy, Doran, Carson, McHattie, Roddy MacGregor and Daniel Mackay all played in the midweek game at Lossie. That would indicate that they might not start on Saturday. Over to you Robbo.
The man who wears the 'Magic Hat' is coming back to Inverness. If you believed the speculation surrounding Miles Storey you were right. He has signed a two year deal to re-join the Caley Jags. A bit of pace up front could be just what we need to chase after knock downs from our target men. He will be included in the squad to face Dundee United after the deal was completed in time. And it has now been confirmed the 'Magic Hat' is back.
In the opening game of the Championship on Friday night, Dunfermline paid the penalty against Dundee as Danny Johnson scored twice from the spot to earn the Dark Blues a point at East End Park as they came from two down to earn a draw.
Go to around 1:40 and let's hope we see more of this from Miles. What a story!