Betfred Opener is an Eye Opener
Despite a record breaking ten penalties scored, Inverness failed to win the bonus point after a no score draw at Balmoor Stadium Peterhead. And it was somewhat ironic that the man who missed the 11th penalty for Inverness was the man who had kept them in the game with a string of superb saves, Mark Ridgers. It was the Blue Toon keeper Greg Fleming that struck the final penalty which Ridgers failed to save to earn them the bonus point in an incredible penalty shoot-out 11-10.
John Robertson aired three of his summer signings in David Carson, Mitchell Curry and James Keatings with James Vincent and Nicolay Todorov on the bench. Aaron Doran was rested and Shaun Rooney, Daniel Mackay and Sean Welsh were all missing through injury.
Peterhead had former Inverness striker Rory McAllister on the bench.
A low key opening to the tie saw Jordan White have the first strike in earnest after 18 minutes but Greg Fleming pushed it wide.
Despite plenty of possession for the visitors, Peterhead were comfortable with it as we failed to create clear opportunities. Now where have I heard that before!
David Carson had an effort deflected for a corner and from that Brad Mckay went wide at the back post. There followed a series of half chances, blocked shots and misses from the visitors but it was a familiar trend to be honest.
Before the break Peterhead began to believe in themselves and Scott Brown flicked over at the near post. Minutes later Brown fired just over and two minutes before the break Gary Fraser went close with a stinging effort that zipped past the post.
Half Time 0-0
Brad Mckay was replaced by James Vincent at the interval and the misses continued, James Keatings going wide, Brown doing likewise at the other end.
ICT had Mark Ridgers to thank for keeping the score level as Jamie Stevenson thought he might score but Ridgers saved fantastically with his legs to deny him.
Vincent came closest to breaking the deadlock but his header hit the post ten minutes into the second half.
Keatings again fired over after a Tom Walsh free kick was part cleared and on the hour Ridgers was the hero once more as he saved from Aidan Smith after he cut into the box.
Talisman Rory McAllister entered the game and Ridgers made a superb one handed save to deny Jason Brown as Peterhead turned the screw, however Fleming had to make his own superb save to thwart a Tom Walsh cross finding it's intended target of Jordan White.
The hosts were gaining in confidence all the time and went close through Brown, Gibson and Michael Dunlop, who saw his header brilliantly saved by Ridgers. Just after that he skimmed the bar when he shot on the half turn.
Inverness were now being roasted by the Blue Toon and they forced three corners in quick succession, all to no avail. Inverness responded with a late brace of corners and a booking for Trafford, but the game ended all square and into the penalty shoot-out it was.
Full Time 0-0
Suffice to say that all the players left on the park scored their spot kicks until Mark Ridgers made a hash of his and his opposite number Greg Fleming scored the winner.
Well done to Peterhead for taking the game to their more fancied opponents and maybe that was the eye opener that Inverness required after a comfortable pre-season.
Caley Stan and RIG pretty much agreed about our performance on the night. The conclusion is that we were simply not good enough.
STAN: Ridgers was the clear man of the match before sclaffing his penalty wide.
It's one thing to draw a flat League Cup tie against a part-time side, quite another to be dominated by one as we were for most of that second half.
We set up with Carson and Trafford sitting in front of the back 4, and what looked initially like a dynamic and interchangeable front 4 with Keatings playing as a 10 and Walsh and Curry pushing up high from the wide areas. There was the odd flash of creativity from Keatings - he's probably not match sharp yet. As with the friendlies, it was Tom Walsh that looked our biggest threat and he put a couple of decent balls into the box, one of which White should've connected with - the big man was played in on goal shortly afterwards but didn't have the composure to get a decent shot away.
Carson moved to right-back when Vincent replaced McKay at half-time and didn't look comfortable there. But that doesn't explain what happened in the second half and I don't know what does. We were overrun - Peterhead were repeatedly able to pick their pass in the final third, and more often than not they got shots away from inside the box.
I hope we get to see footage of the penalties. Charlie Trafford's was the highlight of the night.
RIG: In many ways it was reminiscent of last season. First half we had a lot of the ball but struggled to create chances. Peterhead were content to sit in and absorb pressure and try and hit on the counter. White had our best chance of the half when he pulled a shot across goal / it was palmed away by Fleming.
Second half and Peterhead were all over us. Our best two chances of the second half came from a Vincent header off the post and a White effort clawed away by Fleming. A truly stunning save (think Mikey Fraser v Celtic). Apart from that the home side dominated and should have been out of sight long before the penalty shoot out. Jamie Stevenson and Aidan Smith seemed to be getting a lot of space on their respective flanks and it was disappointing to see how easily Peterhead were able to create space for themselves in the box or drop a ball in behind our full backs to get a cross in. We looked all over the place defensively and it was only thanks to Ridgers that we went to spot kicks.
Neither keeper got near the penalties until Fleming thought he had saved Traffords effort but as he got up to start celebrating the ball fell back down from the bar and spun over the line . Ultimately it came down to the keepers and Ridgers sadly sliced his effort off target before Fleming bagged the bonus point.
Not really much to be impressed by from an ICT PoV. Looks like a change of formation is on the cards with a 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 played last night. Our only real change throughout the game was to swap Curry and Walsh. Hard to ignore the obvious Polworth shaped hole in our team at the moment.