A SMOOTH transition was what John Hughes said he would be seeking as Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager. What he got was something more akin to a snooze transition.
Hughes’ opening game in charge – which he watched from the stand as erstwhile interim manager Duncan Shearer prowled the touchline – brought an end to a five-game winning run for the Highlanders.
Unusually tentative in the opening period in which a sparky St Mirren were dominant, they did not grow into the encounter sufficiently to sprout a winner.
“I was asking the boys after the match and collectively and individually they know they can play better,” he said. “I knew there would be trepidation and anxiety and that led to a few mistakes. We probably had our keeper [Dean Brill] to thank for keeping us on terms but, in the second half, we got a second wind, were the better team and thought we could have stolen the match.”
Hughes said he had no difficulty in having “stood back” to allow Shearer and coach Scott Kellacher essentially to take the team – as the pair had since the departure of Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas, a two-week period that brought victories over Morton, in the
Scottish Cup, and St Johnstone in the league.
“If you can dedicate a scoreless draw away to anybody then all the credit comes to those two guys, who are great and hard-working,” said Hughes. He has yet to decide on his No.2 and coaching team but will take his time on that and won’t be in a rush to pick at his inheritance from Butcher. “If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. Terry did a remarkable job with the players he brought in, the dressing room he created. I don’t know how he did it, but he did it. The spirit at the club, that commitment, attitude and the fact players can’t wait to come every day, reminds me of what we had when I was a player at Falkirk. And, although I’ve only been there for two days, with the laughs we’ve had, it feels like years. I know that doesn’t guarantee results but it helps.”
Helping the cause of Inverness, and ensuring the visitors could remain three points clear in second, were the efforts of Brill. He pulled off a double save from Jason Naismith and Steven Thompson early on before demonstrating sharp reflexes to touch a Thompson drive on to the upright following a sweeping move from the Paisley side.
The only scare for Danny Lennon’s men came when Marley Watkins headed on to the bar midway through the second half, and that fact was not lost on the Paisley side’s manager.
He said: “When you think about the opening game of the season [won 3-0 by Inverness] it shows how far we’ve come.” he said, with St Mirren now on an eight-game run that has brought only one defeat and moved them up to eighth. “It was a big test welcoming Inverness, the second-best team in the country, and John and I thougt we more than matched up to it. In the first half some of our football was breathtaking with one and two-touch stuff and I have to compliment Brill for three fantastic saves.”
Compliments of the day were earned by Gary Warren, however, after he saved Steven Thompson from a booking late on. The defender lost his footing as the St Mirren striker slid in to him, and referee Callum Murray reached for his pocket in believing contact had been made.
“I don’t usually do that, to be honest with you. But he is a nice guy, I like him, and I didn’t want to see him booked.
“He didn’t touch me so I wasn’t going to roll around in agony, like quite a lot of people do nowadays. The ref was going to book him but, at the end of the day, he is an honest guy and so am I. To be fair to the ref he said to me afterwards he was going to book him and thanked me for saying there was nothing in it. In football these days a lot of players fake things and dive around. But this game was played in the right spirit. I like to be aggressive and tough but also be fair as well.”
It will never catch on.
St Mirren: Kello, Naismith, Goodwin, McAusland, Kelly, Newton, McGregor, McLean, McGinn, Thompson, McGowan (Harkins 79). Subs not used: van Zanten, Mair, Caprice, Reilly, Grainger, Dilo.
ICT: Brill, Shinnie, Warren, Meekings, Tremarco, Draper, Foran, Watkins, Ross, Doran, McKay. Subs not used: Esson, Raven, Devine, Greenhalgh, Williams, Polworth, Agdestein.
Booked: Warren, Tremarco
Ref: C Murray