Today was a good day. My team, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, have all but secured their highest ever finish in the SPL with a hard fought victory over their nearest rivals, Ross County. In what was billed as the biggest Highland Derby ever before kick off (Both teams are fighting for the chance of European football, who’d have thought that ten years ago!), it certainly lived up to that title. Not the prettiest game to watch, but the grit and determination shown by both sides resulted in an engrossing and tense affair. Ross County sent a large contingent of fans across the Kessock bridge, which only added to the atmosphere.
It didn’t take long for the action to start, when ICT took the lead after 5 minutes through Andrew Shinnie. A corner from Leeds loanee Charlie Taylor (replacing the suspended Graeme Shinnie) met the head of Caley captain Richie Foran, who nodded it down towards goal. County keeper Michael Fraser blocked the shot, but Andrew Shinnie prodded home from close range to make it 1-0.
Caley kept the pressure up, and Billy McKay had a chance not long after to make it 2-0 but after turning his man curled his shot wide.
County kept battling on and after 35 minutes a soft free kick was given about 30 yards from goal. Former Caley youth player Iain Vigurs squared the ball left to Paul Lawson, who unleashed a lovely strike which curled into the top left of the net to make it 1-1. I don’t really know if Ryan Esson could have done much about it. I didn’t take a photo of this. I probably should have but hey, I’m more interested in Caley!
The second half begun much like the first, with both teams locked in a ding dong battle, but ICT having the slight edge. The edge became an advantage around the hour mark when Charlie Taylor was (according to Derek Adams, I haven’t seen a replay) brought down in the box by County defender Mihael Kovacevic and referee Iain Brines awarded a penalty. The decision resulted in a bit of argy bargy in the box, but Inverness’ top scorer Billy McKay calmly slotted the ball bast Fraser to make it 2-1 for his 20th league goal of the season.
Adams tried to change County’s tactics, throwing on Gary Glen to replace Grant Munro and the men from Dingwall kept trying to break Caley down, but their defence proved too strong. The closest they came was a weak Sam Morrow header which was comfortably claimed by Antonio Reguero in the final minutes.
When the final whistle went, the victory was almost treated like a cup final win. We beat our biggest rivals (who were on an 11 match unbeaten run) to virtually cement our place in the top 6 of the SPL, a first for a Highland club. The joy could be seen on the faces of all involved with ICT, especially the manager.
So for the time being, the Highlands are STILL ours and Terry Butcher and the boys continue they’re march into the history books.
“Oh Inverness is wonderful…..”
If you’d like to see some of the rest of my photos from the game, they’re on this page – http://imgur.com/a/tM5hu