IT’S not often that both managers come into a post-match press conference and call it correctly. Normally, at least one has a slightly skewed view of the preceding 90 minutes.
SCORERS: Inverness CT, Tansey 42, Doran, 89
Today, though, one manager decried his team’s performance as rotten, the other praised his men, calling them slick, and both were bang-on.
Motherwell were a shadow of the side who have finished second for the past three years, the cracks left by the annual plundering of playing resources over the summer have not been as adequately papered over this term and, with a couple of injuries to contend with as well, they have been left looking vulnerable. Lacking in creativity and limited to only one or two shots at goal, they were never really contenders in this match.
“It was basic stuff, we couldn’t pass from A to B and I’m actually pleased we’ve no game during this week as we have a lot of hard work to do. We were really poor in every department. They deserved the win massively, we underperformed. We were awful on the ball and not much better off it.”
It was, Stuart McCall said, one of the worst performances produced by a Motherwell side on his watch, with the lack of creativity and the paucity of goal chances the major gripe. “We have got to make sure we improve but I believe we have the character and the players to improve but we need to do it quickly.”
A man who has benefitted from knowing his best 11 over the past few seasons, he is still trying to suss that out this term and with this kind of performance, the players are not selecting themselves. How McCall would love the squad consistency enjoyed in Inverness over the past couple of seasons, where the vast majority of the squad has stuck together, allowing them to spend the pre-season building on the work carried out since the manager arrived part-way through the previous campaign.
While Motherwell huffed and puffed and generated precious little, the early signs are that Inverness Caledonian Thistle are intent on another season of defying the odds and the detractors who keep waiting for the bubble to burst and them to career back to the bottom six where their budget would suggest they belong. Instead they look even better than last year.
Still organised, they are now a more refined and, yes, slicker, version of their former selves. This was a team assembled by Terry Butcher but it has been fine-tuned by John Hughes and Russell Latapy. There were many who doubted their ability to do that, to take a close-knit team who had been used to playing a certain way and coaxing them to abandon some of what they knew and adopt a different philosophy.
It took a while, and although Hughes will, no doubt, point to the stack of injures the squad suffered towards the end of last season, the transitional period saw they slip from a European slot to fifth in the league standings by the time the curtain fell of the season.
“We were very, very good, very slick. The ball retention was very, very good and we totally dominated and moved the ball well. It was very pleasing on the eye.” The only slight issue was the inability to take more of the chances they created.
“I can’t speak highly enough of these boys. There’s been a great buy-in into how we want them to go about their business.”
They still had to wait until the latter stages of each half to get the goals that gave them all three points as well as the plaudits and safeguarded their position at the top of the Premiership.
Ross Draper had issued the home side with fair warning of their guests’ intent in just the seventh minute but his header zipped just wide and although Gary Warren had to head a Lionel Ainsworth effort off the line five minutes later it was the visitors who piled forward and waited for the cracks to show. Marley Watkins could have opened the scoring in the 28th minute but he was denied and when the ball was played into Ryan Christie’s path David Ferguson made a superb block deep inside the box to maintain the stalemate.
But in the 42nd minute Greg Tansey shot low past Dan Twardzik to give his side the lead.
Motherwell put on returning hero Henrik Ojamaa at the beginning of the second half but even he couldn’t hoist their display above mediocrity, and it was Inverness who got the only other goal of the game. Aaron Doran was a 72nd minute sub and 16 minutes later he wrapped things up with a lovely goal, hitting it from edge of the box to leave Twardzik no chance as the angled effort buried itself in the postage stamp corner of his net.