Inverness stunned Dundee United at Tannadice with an old fashioned drubbing. A Kevin McCann swerving thunderbolt put Inverness one up in the first half. Adam Rooney notched his first after good work by the dazzling Eric Odhiambo and Russell Duncan dipped a stunning volley over the keeper before Rooney made and converted a penalty to round off the scoring.
Alternative Maryhill has penned this report from Tannadice, despite arriving later than expected at the designated watering hole, so settle down and enjoy another masterpiece ...............
In my match preview, I suggested that Caley Thistle’s most memorable performance at Tannadice had come in a 4-2 victory shortly after Craig Brewster’s defection to the tangerine side. Satisfying though that win was, however, it will now have been supplanted in the mind of almost every supporter who witnessed both games by today’s unsparing humiliation of the current Scottish Cup holders. Managers often claim after a heavy defeat that the scoreline did not reflect the balance of play. Had Peter Houston suggested that at 4.45 today, he would have been correct: Caley Thstle could have had several more.
At a conservative estimate, three hundred Inverness supporters were in Tannadice today: frustrating, undoubtedly, for United chairman Steven Thompson whose pre-season comments suggested Dundee had a greater right to play in the SPL because of the thousands they would bring to Tannadice, but comfortably more than the twenty-seven Thompson claimed represented the travelling Inverness support. From the start, the ICT supporters offered noisy backing, in contrast to the apathetic United fans, and they were rewarded with the most dominant and stylish performance Caley Thistle have turned in against SPL opposition for several years.
With the exception of David Proctor replacing the injured Ross Tokely in central defence, Inverness lined up with the same formation and personnel that had looked so promising for twenty-five minutes against Celtic. United, too, stuck largely with the team that had started the season against St Mirren, with Sean Dillon moving inside to replace Darren Dods at centre half and Keith Watson starting at right back.
Caley Thistle began the match in the same positive manner they had shown early on against Celtic. In the first minute Rooney took the ball down on the left and played it across the box, forcing a hoofed United clearance. Two minutes later Hayes made a promising run into the box, before his weak final touch allowed United to clear again, and within five minutes, clever link-up play between Rooney and Odhiambo saw Odhiambo chest the ball down and fire a weak shot at Pernis, then Rooney fire just wide of the United keeper’s right-hand post. The confidence and understanding shown by Odhiambo, Rooney and Hayes in the opening ten minutes set the tone for ICT’s performance throughout the match.
United’s first real chance came in twelve minutes from their first sustained period of fluent football, when Goodwillie shot over from the left hand side of the penalty area after some nice passing build-up play. Two minutes later Goodwillie played a potentially inviting ball across the box, but Esson gathered at his near post.
This brief spell was about as close as United got to controlling the play on the ground throughout the ninety minutes. Thereafter, the ICT defenders and deeper midfielders were quicker to every ball and more composed in their passing, and United’s main threat came from set pieces played across the box, where they had a little more height and strength in the air: their best chance of the first half came on the half hour from a Gary Kenneth header from a long throw, which went narrowly wide of the post.
In contrast, Caley Thistle’s forward four continued to run at the United defence at every opportunity. In twenty minutes, a tricky run cutting in from the left by Nick Ross brought a free kick, ultimately overhit by Jonny Hayes. In twenty-eight minutes, the best move of the match up to that point saw Hayes take down the ball in midfield and send Rooney free with a tremendous reverse pass. Rooney’s shot was blocked by the keeper’s legs and from the resulting corner Duncan fired the ball over the bar.
Similar pressure finally brought the breakthrough for ICT. A great run down the right and cross from Hayes saw Russell Duncan’s shot blocked. Nick Ross kept up the pressure on the left and a dangerous ball across the box was knocked over his own bar by Kenneth. From the corner, the ball broke back into the midfield and Kevin MacCann, striding into a sunlit space thirty yards out, hammered ball cleanly high into Pernis’s left hand corner. One-nil Inverness.
In the aftermath of the goal Craig Conway switched from left to the right of United’s midfield, where Prince Buaben had made little impact on the composed, stylish Kenny Gillet. Conway’s persistence won a couple of dangerous-looking set-pieces, but ICT continued to look threatening on the break, with Ross and Odhiambo linking diagonally across the field to produce a shot from the latter, and a good turn and cross from Rooney being lost in the sunlight by Hayes when he was free in the box.
Half Time: 0-1
At half time, the Inverness supporters were encouraged by the effort of the team and the quality of its attacking play, but most probably suspected that United would re-emerge after the break a more determined and aggressive side. This was not the case. Instead, ICT came out playing like cup holders and European challengers, while United for the whole of the second half looked like a newly-promoted team well out of its depth.
In forty-six minutes great link-up play between Hayes, Odhiambo and McCann saw Hayes receive the ball at the end of the move he had begun and then fall in the box under what appeared to be a tackle from behind by the player he had just beaten. The referee waved away the penalty claims. Just a minute later, Hayes and Rooney again linked up to send Hayes clear in the right hand side of the box. This time Hayes shot wide. On forty-nine minutes ICT had another claim for a penalty turned down when Rooney held the ball up on the right and allowed Odhiambo to waltz through the United defence again. Hayes seemed to be taken down by Pernis when he beat the keeper to Odhiambo’s low cross, but the referee again saw nothing wrong with the challenge.
Caley Thistle’s dominance and superior creativity were quickly rewarded, however, when in the very next attack Odhiambo turned Kenneth beautifully on the right and slid the ball across for Rooney to steer the ball beyond Pernis’s right hand. Just two minutes later ICT killed the game in spectacular fashion when Russell Duncan turned sweetly on a McCann throw and knocked the ball first time high over Pernis and into the corner of the net from twenty yards. Duncan scores but rarely; when he does, the goals are always worth waiting for. Dundee United 0 – Inverness Caledonian Thistle 3.
On the hour, Craig Conway and Paul Dixon were replaced by Danny Cadamarteri and Barry Douglas, wearing matching pairs of pink and lilac boots. If this choice of footwear was supposed to imply the introduction of bit of flamboyance and individuality into United’s play, it failed miserably and served only to highlight the utter ineffectiveness of their attack. Inverness could have been forgiven for easing off a little when the third goal went in, but on the contrary the players seemed determined to underline their superiority and were in quicker and harder to every loose ball, with Lee Cox epitomising their determination.
In 69 minutes Rooney shot over from an Odhiambo ball; Eric himself shot wide of the keeper’s right hand post after a defensive mistake just two minutes later; and wonderful midfield play from Odhiambo around the 75 minute mark sent Hayes through into the box, but his dinked cross was headed clear. Caley Thistle’s continuing superior pressure paid off in the eighty-second minute when Rooney was played inside by Hayes, skinned Kenneth in the box and was clumsily brought down by the Scottish international, who had been utterly outclassed by ICT’s forwards throughout the game. Rooney buried the resultant penalty into Pernis’ bottom right hand corner.
And that was just about that. Shane Sutherland and Danni Sanchez made late substitute appearances for ICT, allowing Jonny Hayes and Eric Odhiambo to receive the ovations their performances richly deserved; Dundee Utd finally created a decent scoring opportunity when Prince Buaben brought the ball down neatly on his chest and hit the post with a volley from the edge of the box. Further scrutiny shows that the ever alert Esson made a fingertip save to divert the ball onto the post. Had this gone in, however, it would have been an injustice: ICT were worth at least a four-goal victory for their greater commitment, control of the match and vastly superior style of play.
Notwithstanding the usual Gestapo-like Tannadice stewarding and inevitable removal, restoration and removal again of Johndo for injudicious use of the word ‘*****’, this was about as good as a day at the football gets. And when the manager and players came across at the end of the game to acknowledge the supporters, they looked like a team that had thoroughly enjoyed every one of the preceding ninety minutes. I hope they had. Those in the away stand certainly did.
Full Time: 0-4
Man of the Match: No-one was less than excellent, but for the consistent directness and danger of his attacking play, my award goes to Eric Odhiambo.
Match report written by Alternative Maryhill