Inverness Caledonian Thistle F.C
It’s been a tough few months for my beloved Caley Thistle. After a blistering start in the league, we went into this weekend having not won an SPL match since November, and struggling suddenly to stay in the top half of the league.
Today is not a cure-all, but it is a step.
Caley Thistle are comfortably into the final eight of the Scottish Cup, after today’s shellacking of Greenock Morton, 5-1 at Caledonian Stadium. This brought back the feeling we had in September and October – strength, and confidence. Two from Rooney, two from Foran. Hell, even new boy Chris Hogg got a goal. This is the sort of match we should be winning by four goals, and we did – for a team that often plays down to its inferior opponents, that is a very big deal.
Number of league road matches lost in 2010: 0
Number of league road matches lost in 2011: 1
The streak is over, and it couldn’t have lasted forever … but I guess I didn’t think it would end at St. Johnstone. We can hold Celtic, we can hold Rangers, but oh – those Saints were just too much for us. I know that results don’t work that way – that every game is different, and it was pretty incredible that it lasted as long as it did, but still. Ugh.
Well, since my last post, there have been three results, the first three of 2011. They are as follows:
SPL: St. Johnstone 1-0 Inverness CT
Scottish Cup: Inverness CT 2-0 Elgin City
SPL (today): Motherwell 0-0 Inverness CT
The Scottish Cup win over neighbors Elgin was nearly a disaster, and stayed 0-0 until extra time, where both of our goals came. Other than that, we have been kept completely off the scoreboard. Two SPL matches since the break – 0 goals. Away at St. Johnstone and Motherwell … not the kind of places we should concede clean sheets.
Having a look at the league table, the draw today sees us staying in 5th position, three points behind Killie and three points ahead of Motherwell, who both have a game in hand over us. Hearts are running away with the third-place spot, now eight points clear of 4th. The season is taking shape, and although I’d be thrilled with finishing the season in 5th (along with maybe a good Cup run?), we’ll need to find the net if we’re going to stay there, or even remain in the top half of the SPL.
Mon the Caley.
This is big in a number of ways. First, of course, it’s the last match of 2010. It’s been a year to remember for Caley Thistle fans: the year we won the First Division and got ourselves promoted, the year of the away undefeated streak, the year of the season start that sees us sitting fourth going into this match. This match is also a battle for league table position. Kilmarnock sits three points below us with the same goal difference, so any win they can take from the visit to Inverness will put them into fourth and knock us down to fifth. What can we expect from Killie?
Overall record: 7 wins, 3 draws, 7 losses
Table position: 5th with 24 points, three points below Caley
Away record: 3 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses
Last away result: Celtic 1-1 Kilmarnock
Danger man: Conor Sammon
I just don’t understand how we are this woeful at home. We can go to Celtic Park, to Ibrox, to Tynecastle and Easter Road, and get results against the top teams. Then when we host a relegation-threatened team, at home, and take a very early lead, we can’t defend it. Lee Cox put us up over St. Mirren today in the 8th minute, the best start we could have hoped for against the visiting Buddies. We held it for most of the first half, but only because of Ryan Esson’s fine diving save on former Caley man Craig Dargo. Dargo never got his goal today, but he still punished us, sending the ball in to Steven Thomson just before the half to even the score.
It’s Boxing Day and that means enough holiday cheer: it’s time for the fitba. For the Caley Thistle, it means a visit by the Buddies of St. Mirren. Despite widespread postponements for snow, our match looks to be going ahead, so let’s have a quick look at said Buddies:
League standing: 10th
13 points from 16 matches, -13 goal difference
Away record: 1 win, 1 draw, 5 losses
Squad available: Samson, van Zanten, McAusland, Potter, McGregor, Travner, Thomson, Cregg, McLean, Higdon, McGowan, McQuade, Gallacher, Lynch, Barron, Mooy, Love, Dargo.
Danger men: Michael Higdon, Craig Dargo
This may or may not be the return match of Craig Dargo from his injury woes, but if it is, I would throw out the statistics and call him the bigger danger than team scoring leader Higdon. Dargo was one of our best when he played for Caley, and he’s shown us since that he loves to score at Caledonian Stadium, regardless of what team he plays for. We have a few returns of our own, with Gil Blumenstein and Chris Innes. Eric Odhiambo will also be available. Jonny Hayes is a doubt, and frankly, I’d like to see him not play. We need him for a season, not a match, and if there’s a match I’m okay with missing him for, it’s the Buddies at home.
Their away record is about as good as our home one. As legendarily good as we have been on the road, we still cannot defend our home stadium, and the players know it. This is a relegation-threatened team we’re facing, and we need to be able to beat them in Inverness. I think we can, even without the brilliance that Jonny Hayes has shown of late. We’ll need Foran and Rooney to take us ahead, and we’ll need Rossco, Munro and the rest of the backline to pretend they’re on the road and keep us clean. This is a winnable match, and a home win would do wonders for us. Imagine if the SPL feared coming to Inverness the way they fear us coming to them. It’s a happy thought. Mon the Caley.
With the 1-1 draw at Tynecastle on the weekend, Caley achieved yet another milestone in a year to remember. We did not lose a single road league match in 2010. The last time Caley Thistle lost on the road was November 2009, and with only two home matches left this year, the streak is guaranteed to last at least until January 2nd, when we visit St. Johnstone.
“It’s a fairy tale, the tale of Inverness Caley Thistle and what we do on the road, it’s just incredible.” – Terry Butcher. Damned right.
There have been plenty of notable moments along the way, like stopping Rangers’ 9-game winning streak to start the season. This game is something of an event in itself, being that Hearts had won seven matches in a row in the league, and sit one spot above us only three points behind Celtic.
It really has been an incredible year: the promotion, the dominating Spring that saw us break away from all challengers in the First Division, and a run that has seen us go fourth place in the SPL.
Now if we could only do nearly the same job at home, we’d be talking Europe.
Tomorrow, Caley Thistle head to the confines of Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Stadium to take on Hearts. It’s been well over 1 year since we lost a league match on the road, and we’ve begun to take the streak for granted, but no trip to the capital is an easy one. Hearts stand third in the SPL, one spot above us and one below Celtic. They know that in the extremely unlikely event of Celtic slipping up against Hamilton, they will be pressing for second place. They also know what to expect from us – everyone in the SPL does now. As Ross Tokely said this week:
“I think teams are fearing us, we’ve got guys who will go out there and attack, we’ve got the skill and the speed and we will cause teams bother.”
Another Old Firm opponent, another good result. This season is really going quite nicely.
We had a bit of luck to get away with this one, with Kenny Miller missing a penalty late on to keep the match drawn. Still, we’ll take every bit of this, happily.
Even better, we have a rare treat here at the Caley Offside – an actual goal video. There are advantages to playing one of the Glasgow sides after all. Enjoy Jonny Hayes’ rocket:
Video courtesy of Soccerportal
I love this team. I’ve always loved this team, but today is one of those days that you savor. Our eighth road match of the season, and potentially our hardest, ends in a 2-2 draw at Celtic Park, a draw that sees us remain in 4th place in the league and extend our season-long road undefeated streak. Over that stretch, we’ve gone to Glasgow twice, and twice earned score draws from the Old Firm. We were the first team this season to take points from Rangers, and now we’ve done it to Celtic.
Even better, we did it in comeback fashion. The Hoops went up 1-0 late in the first half, and followed that with another near the hour mark to make it 2-0. One thing that we have not classically been good at is coming back from deficits, and it has to be said that 2-0 down to Celtic in their house is about as hard a situation as you can get in Scottish football. But Richie Foran brought one back to give us some hope, and it was good old Grant Munro, a man who has done so much for us, that delivered this point with a goal of his own. Adam Rooney, while managing to not score for the first time in what seems like years, was incredibly active all over the pitch, and gets a lot of credit for keeping Celtic on the back foot.
A great day for Caley. Less so for the other northern side, as Aberdeen was beaten and now finds themselves tied on points for the relegation spot. Strange days. But that’s for another post – this one is all happy. Mon the Caley.