I always enjoyed my trips to the Highland capital when we were playing Inverness in the SPL. A comfortable 3 hours by car or a little longer by train or the Kirky bus. An hour or so going round the tidy streets always seemed to lead to Pat Mackenzie’s shirt shop at the top of Queensgate. Then lunch in one of the quaint tea shops in the Victorian Market before the long walk to the picturesque Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in the shadow of the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle.
Perhaps the trips have seemed the more memorable because of Rangers impressive away record: losing only once, drawing twice and recording eight wins in 11 visits, 10 of which have been in the SPL since 2004.
Equally Inverness seem to enjoy their visits to Ibrox: having only lost 5 times in 12 matches over the same period and enjoying 1-0 SPL wins in 2006 and 2008 as well as the 3-0 League Cup triumph in 2012.
Despite our then 4th Division status that was an embarrassing night for the light blues as former Rangers striker Andrew Shinnie put Inverness ahead after 27 minutes and Inverness went on to dominate the match with second half goals from Gary Warren and Andrew’s brother Graeme from the penalty spot. Of the men who wore the colours in that quarter-final tie less than two years ago only Wallace, Hutton, Black, Macloed, McCulloch, Aird, Shiels and his replacement McKay remain; although five will surely start this time around.
Inverness have lost only four of the men who started against us on 31 October 2012, most notably Scottish International Andrew Shinnie now with Birmingham and Welsh International Owain Tudur Jones who has moved to Falkirk. However, Graeme Shinnie, David Raven, Josh Meekings, Ross Draper and Billy McKay are all ever presents this season, Gary Warren has started 5 matches and Aaron Doran marked his second start (and four sub appearances) by scoring Saturday’s only goal for the Highlanders.
Terry Butcher must surely rue the day he gave up his comfortable Northern lifestyle for the bright lights and filthy lucre of Leith.
Caley Thistle marched into Firhill on Saturday as Scottish Premiership League leaders without having conceded a goal; but retreated severely wounded by a 3-1 defeat that pushed them down a place behind newly-promoted Hamilton Academicals on goal difference. Looking at the five minute highlights on the Beeb: Doran’s goal came from a good passing movement on the right; but they appeared to be vulnerable on the left side of defence; and lost a bad goal to a header straight from a corner (cue Mohsni perhaps?)
Rangers turned in their best performance of the season, dominating a decent Raith Rovers side on Friday night and had Boyd not left his shooting boots at Murray Park, might have run up eight for the second time this season.
The £3.13 million question for tomorrow night is - will Ally stand by the successful 4-4-2 system (or perhaps in his language it’s been 4-3-[1 wide man] - 2) of recent weeks or revert to type by going 4-5-1. Nicky Clark’s injury allied to Miller once again being hors de combat and Daly just 10 minutes into his return, seemed to pave the way for a 4-5-1, even if Boyd would be nobody’s choice as lone front man. According to McCoist: “Nicky Clark trained this morning and is fine. He came off with ten minutes to go with a tight hamstring but he trained this morning.” So I guess he trained this morning then.
But does that mean the Manager will go for the win with the same team in the same formation or will he be tempted back to a European style home formation or perhaps even 3-5-2?
What are his options? Foster could come in at RB, with McGregor, McCulloch and Mohsni as a back 3; Foster and Wallace wide of Law, Black and Macloed; and Clark and Boyd upfront. Unlikely perhaps as Foster hasn’t started for 5 weeks. OR, if Clark is fit, could Boyd be left on the bench with McGregor, McCulloch, Mohsni and Wallace at the back; Aird, Law, Black, Macloed & Templeton as a midfield five.
Whatever the starting formation and personnel, Gersnet opinion on the result is divided: with 17 of those who have made predictions so far going for a home win, 7 opting for Inverness and one going for a draw and a penalty decider. Are those predicting a win letting their hearts rule their heads or are those predicting a loss just being realistic?