Saturday 11 August 2018
Ladbrokes Championship
HT   0 - 0
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Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Match Preview

On Saturday, Ayr United make the long trip north to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their first away game of the new Championship season. After four wins from four in the Betfred Cup, United got off to the perfect start in the league last week, celebrating unfurling the League 1 winner’s flag with a second 2-0 win over Partick Thistle in just eight days.

United’s travelling support will be looking forward to a first trip to Inverness since 2010 and while the goalscoring exploits of Lawrence Shankland have been capturing attentions, Saturday saw Ian McCall’s side keep a fourth consecutive clean sheet. Michael Tidser’s 14th minute free kick for Morton in our opening game is the only time Ross Doohan has been beaten this season. Caley Thistle, however, look set to prove a stern test to the buoyant Honest Men.

The Opposition: Inverness finished last season strongly under John Robertson, taking 26 from a possible 30 league points in addition to lifting the Irn-Bru Cup in March. Their late push, however, was not quite enough to make the promotion play-offs, ending the season fifth, two points behind Dunfermline Athletic. Having spent just one previous season outside Scottish football’s top tier since 2004, it meant a second successive season the Championship for the Highlanders.

George Oakley – who top scored for the Caley Jags last season with eight goals – got them off to a winning start in the league on Saturday with the only goal of the game at Falkirk. That saw them bounce back from a promising League Cup campaign that was abruptly ended by a 5-0 defeat versus Heart of Midlothian, which halted their progression in the competition.

Former AFC Wimbledon striker Oakley looks to have formed a useful partnership upfront with ex- Nathan Austin, who joined Inverness in January having been released by Falkirk. Former Rangers midfielder Tom Walsh will look to create from midfield where 6ft 3½in Canadian international Charlie Trafford is a big presence while Brad McKay and Coll Donaldson form part of a back-line that kept 11 consecutive clean sheets last season.

Team News

Chris Higgins is still on his way back from injury, everyone else is fit and available.

Ian Says

Last week was fantastic, for everyone involved at the club. The pre match celebrations, a good crowd and then of course the performance. We deserved at least a 2-0 win but being honest it could have been more. We have worked just as hard this week as every other week as last week means nothing now. Our focus has completely been on tomorrows game. It will be a completely different test and one we are really looking forward to. They are in excellent form and have been for some time so it will be extremely tough for us. We are looking to keep this momentum going and hopefully give our supporters something to celebrate on the long journey home.

Head to Head

The last meeting between the sides came during United’s run to the League Cup semi-final during season 2011/12. Eddie Malone’s strike on the hour mark proved to be the only goal of the game at Somerset Park in this second round tie as Inverness became the first of three SPL scalps that year.

Inverness hit 10 goals in just two matches at Somerset Park during season 2009/10, including a 7-0 win in April 2010 as they celebrated promotion to the Scottish Premier League in style. However, they were unable to overcome the Honest Men in the two matches at home; there was a goalless draw at the start of the season while later in the year a controversial last minute Adam Rooney penalty made it 3-3. Andy Aitken and Mark Roberts had put United ahead in the first-half before goals either side of half-time from Richie Foran and Jonny Hayes level it for Terry Butcher’s side. Tam McManus gave the Honest Men the lead once more before Martyn Campbell was harshly adjudged to have pushed Grant Munro in the box by referee Scott Macdonald.

Last Meeting

Ayr United wins –7

Draws – 10

Inverness wins – 20

 

The Honest Men have won just once in 14 matches at the Caledonian Stadium but we are unbeaten in our last three trips to the Highland capital. That one away victory was in January 2003 and came courtesy of a 3rd minute Stewart Kean strike.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Team Lineups

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Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Match Report

Honest Man

Ross Doohan

On Saturday Ayr travelled north to Inverness to face much fancied Inverness Caley Thistle at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium and returned clutching a well-earned point in dramatic circumstances. United played the final 60 mins with only ten men after Daniel Harvie received a second yellow for tugging back striker George Oakley, resulting in a penalty for the Inverness side. The resultant penalty was missed, and it was United who almost snatched victory with a superb second-half performance where the Honest Men ignored conventional wisdom and took the game to Caley Thistle.

Before the match commenced there was a minute’s silence in memory of Caley Thistle’s former player, 52-year-old Alan Hercher, who passed away on the previous day. The tribute was immaculately observed by the players and both sets of fans in a fitting and moving tribute to the Inverness side’s first ever club captain.

The first half was an exciting affair with ICT trying hard to dominate, stroking the ball around and regularly pushing towards United’s goal. Ayr took their time, doing well to frustrate Caley Thistle while countering at pace on the break. In general, the home side had the majority of the play but lacked the guile or patience in the final third to take advantage of this possession when coming up against the strong and resolute United defence with captain Jamie Adams, and Michael Rose dominant in the centre.

Thistle held possession for most of the opening minutes of the match, with a Tom Walsh drive on 2 mins signalling their intent but Ayr stood solid and slowly edged into the game, soon giving as good as they got with some delightful passing football working the ball from back to front.

With 11 minutes gone, Murdoch played a ball through behind the Caley Thistle defence and Daniel Harvie charged forward from the halfway line and raced shoulder to shoulder with Shaun Rooney to try and get in front and win the ball. The United defender slid in to try and whip the ball away from Rooney, just as he flicked the ball back to his keeper and clipped the Caley Thistle man’s legs.  Referee Andrew Dallas blew for a foul and flashed a yellow card at Harvie, one that would come back to haunt the United defender.

On 18 mins United came close to opening the scoring. A long ball from the back was cushioned off the chest by Shankland, some 30 yards out, to Moffat who immediately flicked the ball back to Shankland who drove left and slid the ball to Crawford. Crawford moved into the penalty area and, with quick sleight of foot, created the space that allowed him to curl a delicious effort just wide of the far post assisted by the finest of touches by Ridgers. From the corner, Michael Rose powerfully headed downwards but Ridgers did well to smother the ball on the line.

With 19 mins gone it was one booking each as Caley Thistle captain Carl Tremarco lunged into United’s Alan Forrest shins in a manner that made Harvie’s tackle seem mild, but this only received a similar booking.

Ayr started to become more and more adventurous going forward and on 24 mins Harvie darted down the left and slid the ball to Moffat whose cross into the box was taken by keeper Ridgers just as Shankland looked ready to pounce.

On 28 mins, Charlie Trafford delivered a long sweeping ball into the Ayr penalty area with Oakley looking odds on to reach the ball first as he darted behind the United defensive line. The forward tangled with Ayr’s Harvie before going down and referee Dallas pointed to the spot indicating that the United defender has pulled the Caley Thistle’s striker’s shirt. A second yellow and Harvie made the lonely walk off the field of play and United faced the last 60 mins with 10 men.

Liam Polworth stepped up to take the penalty but, to howls of derision, he smashed the ball wide of Doohan’s left hand post. It stayed 0 – 0 and Caley Thistle had missed a gilt edged chance.

Manager Ian McCall re organised Ayr’s structure to cope with the diminished manpower, Forrest making way for Ferguson who slotted in at left back, with Moffat dropping into midfield leaving Shankland upfront.

Rather than being downhearted, the sending off seemed to energise the Ayrshire men, and on 36 mins they had a penalty shout of their own. Shankland fought and won the ball on the edge of the area only for defender Donaldson to tackle from behind trapping Shankland’s legs and bringing him to the ground, but referee Dallas waved away the striker’s furious claims.

Three minutes later Caley, yet again, refused a great opportunity to go in front. Austin moved onto a ball behind the United defence and, with no defenders to beat, sprinted goalwards.  Twelve yards out the big striker took aim before placing the ball to the left of the advancing Doohan but well wide of the post. Yet again the vociferous Ayr support breathed a sigh of relief.

With 45 mins gone, and United forcing Caley Thistle to rely on shots from outside the box, Austin struck a hopeful drive which went through Adams’ legs but Doohan, unsighted to the initial shot, comfortably got down to clutch the ball.

The first half had been an energetic and fast paced one, with 10-man Ayr raising their game, attacking with energy, and also and nullifying the attacking efforts of Caley Thistle.

Received knowledge was that Caley Thistle, with a man advantage, would have a comfortable 2nd half and take the three points with Ayr unable to sustain their efforts: but this was not to be.

United came out all guns blazing and on 47 mins should have taken the lead. Shankland outmuscled Donaldson on the right and swiftly made for goal, before smashing a drive across the face of the goal and inches wide. No one could deny the striker taking his chance but a pass inside to Robbie Crawford, who had run into space in the box, would have resulted in a simple tap in for the attacking midfielder.

Just one minute later centre half Coll Donaldson received a yellow card after taking out Robbie Crawford who was running in on goal after breaking from the half way line.

Then, with 50 mins on the clock, it was Moffat’s turn to set his sights on goal. Shankland held up the ball on the halfway line before releasing Moffat through the middle. Reaching the penalty area, Moffat skilfully mis-footed and turned Brad McKay, before sending his shot inches wide.

Robbie Crawford’s close control and footwork had been a highlight of the game and, on 54 mins, he deliciously cut a weaving swathe through 5 defenders, and left one other going the other way, before unfortunately slicing the ball high and wide from 25 yards.

In that 10 min spell, Caley Thistle were looking fragile, struggling to contend with the pace and skill of Shankland, Moffat, and Crawford as they carved pathways goalward, but they slowly started to come into the match.  Caley Thistle turned up the heat, with headers from Austin, and Oakley going close, and a 30-yard drive by Joe Chalmers plucked out of the air by the strong and confident Doohan. United were being put under siege with a series of 5 corners in quick succession testing their resolve.

With Caley Thistle failing to make an impact on United’s rear-guard, it was time for them to make a change with stuttering striker Austin off for Jordan White. It was, however, Ayr who went closest next, Moffat finding Crawford who again used quick footwork to bypass defenders before releasing a left-footed shot which Ridgers saved at his near post.

The hard-working United defence ensured that most of Caley Thistle’s attacks broke down at the edge of the box and were being restricted to set piece moves to threaten. It was time for the home side to fully refresh their attack, with Trafford being replaced by McKay and Walsh by Doran.

With Caley Thistle now having 4 men playing upfront and 4 midfielders supplying ammunition, Ayr countered, removing the hard working Moffat and replacing him with Steven Bell to play a deeper roll and adding extra defensive capacity.

United were still up to the task and little change from the Inverness side with their closest attempt coming from a corner on the right with a flashing header by substitute McKay that rose over the bar and out.

It would be wrong to think that Ayr were now only defending, as they countered at speed, often causing deep concern to the Caley Thistle fans as they poured forwards. On 81 mins Shankland found Crawford with an inch-perfect cross-field pass. Crawford controlled then raced to the line before trying to lift the ball to the back post where Shankland had sprinted to in expectation. Just as the perfect moment seemed to have been created, Ridgers stretched and intercepted the ball mid-flightpath and it was the turn of the Caley Thistle support to breath a deep sigh of relief.

The final Ayr substitution was made on 82 mins with Docherty replacing Kerr in midfield.

Caley were now determined to throw everything at Ayr, but their attacks seemed rushed and at times seemed nervous and frustrated but on 84 mins they came close, a Jordan White header from inside the 6-yard box just going over the bar. With one minute to go and nothing much working for the frustrated Caley Thistle, Donaldson decided to take a shot from 25 yards but sent the ball flashing over the top.

On the final whistle, the United team and management went to their raucous travelling support and acknowledged the part they played in urging their team on.

A hard-working performance from this United side saw them stand up to a strong Caley Thistle team and come close to stealing all three points. With only 10 men on the park, Ayr showed determination, grit, and flair to bring a point back to Ayrshire, a point they justly deserved.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Match Timeline

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Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Match Stats

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Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Ayr United | Media

All Images are © David Sargent and Ayr United FC and may not be used without permission

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