The battle for the Highlands

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.


Just before 3pm the teams came out and the wait was over.


It seems here that the wee boy got scared!

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!

It didn’t get better for Esson, however, as he had to signal to the bench after picking up an injury. This meant a return for Antonio Reguero to the Caley net just before half time.

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

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A weekend of massive games. Oh and a cup final.

Well, there’s some BIG games in Scotland this week. It all starts with Motherwell Vs. Hibs tonight in the SPL. Considering the form of Well’s Michael Higdon (Boo! His goal got us relegated.), Hibs’ Leigh Griffiths and the fact the last ten games between these two sides has resulted in 45 goals, an entertaining game is in order. Mind you, now that I’ve said that, it’ll be 0-0. I’m wanting anything but a Motherwell win tonight, only because we’re competing with them!

Then tomorrow we have possibly the biggest Highland derby (“El Kessocko” still doesn’t sound right to me and I shudder at “Cold Firm”) of ALL TIME with both teams fighting to cement a top 6 place and make a charge for European football! If you’d told me that at the start of the season I wouldn’t have believed you but both teams have been absolutely fantastic. Being a loyal ICT fan of course, I’ll be there, cheering on Terry and the boys. I’ll be doing a post on the atmosphere and game tomorrow, so watch this space. Especially if you’ve never experienced it. It promises to be an absolute belter.

In fact if you are able to go, GO! Scottish football needs your support!

Celtic host Aberdeen on Saturday in the other SPL game. There are some rumours going about that this could possibly be Craig Brown’s final game in charge, if Aberdeen are able to find a new manager soon, since he decided that he will be retiring at the end of the season. I personally can’t see that being the case and I reckon Brown will stay on for the remaining games of the season, due to the fact there’s not that many left.

Then on Sunday there’s a Dundee Derby at Tannadice. I’d imagine United to be the strong favourites, but some are saying that Dundee are having a mini revival.
It seems that the Dark Blues will be replacing Rab Douglas in goals with new signing Steve Simonsen, the former Stoke goalkeeper. There’s stories going around that new Dundee manager John Brown told Douglas to pack up and get out. If this is the case, it’s a pretty disgraceful way to treat a loyal servant of the club, regardless of his sub-par performances this season. The official line is that Douglas is carrying an injury and is being given time off to recover. Only time will tell as to what the truth is.

There is another game on Sunday. Just the small matter of the League Cup final. St. Mirren take on Hearts for the first trophy of the season at Hampden. St. Mirren will be attempting to win this trophy for the first time in their history, whilst Hearts are after their 5th. Given both teams form, I’d say the men from Paisley might be slight favourites, but the Caley Jags were favourites to beat Hearts in the semi-final and we were knocked out. I’d have to say I’d prefer a Saints win, if only because the Jambos knocked us out and the fact my great grandfather played for St. Mirren in the 1940’s.

It promises to be a good weekend of football in Scotland, so if you can GET TO A GAME!