Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0 Dunfermline Athletic 0Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Friday, 4th May 2012
The Pars’ brief adventure in the SPL seems to be going out with a whimper rather than a bang as a goalless draw eased the pressure on relegation rivals Hibernian. The Pars did create a couple of chances but at no stage looked like getting the victory they needed.
It was a beautiful evening in Inverness – perfect for a game of football one might have thought, although the combination of setting sun and bumpy pitch looked like it might cause the occasional problem. So how would the Pars set themselves up for what was pretty much a must win game? Cautiously, was the answer. There were two changes from the side that had finally broken their home hoodoo, both at full-back. Skipper Auzzy McCann was back in his favoured left-back berth, and Jordan McMillan was at right back allowing Gary Mason to push forward into midfield where he played alongside Mark Kerr, Kyle Hutton playing in front of the pair, but not as far forward as Andy Kirk, the sole striker. Graham and Cardle provided width, and the defence was completed as expected with the Keddie Dowie combination in front of Smith the keeper. A 4-5-1, then (or a 4-2-3-1 to be more precise). Both Boyle and Hardie dropped to the bench, to be joined by Barrowman and Buchanan, as well as Thomson, Willis and Fernandez.
Chatting with a couple of Inverness fans beforehand it became clear that despite their 8 point advantage there were still concerns that their team were not yet out of the relegation mire. The need to avoid defeat may have influenced Terry Butcher’s selection as he set his side up similarly to the Pars, with a back 4 and a sole striker in the form of Billy McKay, but with Richie Foran playing deep and trying to dictate play.
After a minute’s silence in memory of the Inverness fan who had died at the game last week, the Pars kicked off into the sun. Both sides were content to build slowly, with each having an early dig from distance – a 2nd minute Tansey shot that Smith had covered and a similar effort from Graham that Esson held comfortably. Similarly, the teams swapped corners, an early Cardle produced no threat unlike Tansey’s a couple of minutes later, when Smith had to dive low to palm away Williams’ header, the ball eventually being cleared after a classic stramash. Another corner followed, Smith half-clearing with his punch and Kirk completing the job.
The game settled down, with both side largely cancelling each other out, but Inverness looking the likelier team, being faster on the break, Tansey outpacing McCann in 19 minutes before going to ground in the box, Mr O’Reilly waving away any penalty claims, and having a couple of shots from outside the box, neither of which troubled Chris Smith. The Pars were largely reduced to hitting long balls into the channels for Kirk to chase, a tactic that lead to no success.
Things looked slightly more promising after the half hour when McMillan chipped over his opponent to allow Hutton to drive in a cross, but the lack of Pars numbers in the box meant no-one was there to profit. At least they created a decent chance in 34 minutes – an offside decision allowed Dowie to send the ball long, and Foran’s miscued header allowed Cardle to find Hutton but the loan Ranger side-footed tamely to Esson.
That was the Pars’ best (and virtually only) chance of the half – Doran had another attempt for Caley Thistle but a half that had barely got going soon fizzled out.
Half time: Caley Thistle 0 Pars 0
Although both managers would have been satisfied with the scoreline, the fans were less happy. About 300 Pars fans had made the journey north and they would have expected a little bit more in the way of attacking football. Instead, the best entertainment of the night was provided by Nessie the mascot and her half-time dance routine.
The sun was now setting over the Black Isle when the teams retook the field and of the two sides it was the home team who started more brightly – a Mason error allowed Doran a shooting chance, but he tried to create room for a better one before working the ball back to Tansey who mis-kicked when a goal looked likely. The Pars were struggling to make any headway, but did take advantage of the home team pausing when McKay went down injured, Hutton switching the ball to McMillan who motored down the right but the full-back couldn’t find a decent cross when he hit the byeline.
That was a rare ray of light – for all the Pars may have been better in midfield, they weren’t creating as many threats as Caley Thistle, who spurned another opportunity when Shinnie fired past as the home team surged up the park.