IT IS always the same when a team reverses the form guide to post a win: the victors hope it is the shape of things to come, the vanquished just a blip.
Aberdeen 0-1 Inverness CT
Scorer: Inverness CT - Williams (22)
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes and his players spoke as one about, as Pittodrie defender Ryan Jack put it, not getting too “down in the dumps” over the inability to win for the ninth time in ten games. “As a team we need to turn up every week to get results and today we never and there are no excuses,” the Scotland under-21 internationalist said. “They played better and deserved the points.”
Their conquerors, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, meanwhile, were keen to present the victory as showing the true face of a Highland side that had not claimed a win in their previous five attempts. Home defender Mark Reynolds put the defeat down to being outfought and outworked by their visitors, but they were also out-thought, with McInnes’s men expending mighty effort but in futile fashion.
Inverness played precisely the sort of smart football that allowed them to become one of the leading footballing forces in the country under Terry Butcher. For Hughes’ second win in nine games, the old template seemed back in place, with defenders defending diligently, and midfielders and attackers moving both ball and themselves intelligently to create opportunities with alacrity. The club’s still settling manager considers that no mean feat as he continues to make do without injured captain Richie Foran, a man he considers the standard-setter and heartbeat of the team. Just prior to the point when outcomes would have started to raise questions about the health of Hughes’ Inverness – having not won at home under him and not so long ago finding themselves 4-0 down inside 45 minutes to Aberdeen at the Caledonian Stadium – the team have a success to build on.
How much rebuilding is required by Aberdeen after a reverse that didn’t affect their status as second-slot holders in the Premiership remains to be seen. Despite having more of the ball, they never seriously threatened their opponents for almost 70 minutes – Dean Brill then pushing away a dipping effort from Willo Flood – and were badly exposed for the goal that came when an Aaron Doran cross from the right found Danny Williams in space at the back post, with the Englishman cracking a drive beyond Jamie Langfield via the bar. The Aberdeen goalkeeper then had a couple of decent blocks, with Billy McKay missing a couple of opportunities. To win without the Irishman making a scoring contribution will be a further satisfaction for Hughes.
For all their recent wins they have racked up, Aberdeen appeared badly flawed. It is conceivable that they could struggle at Fir Park next week – their nearest challengers for second Motherwell having beaten them at Pittodrie recently – and then the League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone and the Scottish Cup tie at Celtic Park that will follow the Lanarkshire encounter. The Aberdeen squad, put in the mindset by McInnes, would paint a different picture. “Today was a disappointment but football’s full of disappointments,” Jack said. “It is all about bouncing back and we will look at the tape this week and see where we went wrong and look to put it right. We are going straight into a game against the team closest to us, and we will have a point to prove.”
McInnes’s interest in David Goodwillie and Adam Rooney proves he isn’t convinced by his attacking options. Overall, Aberdeen were creatively bereft against Inverness, but Jack maintained that wasn’t simply a shortcoming in the striking department. “It is not really for me to comment on what we need,” he said over the question as to whether a frontline recruit was required. “The last few weeks we have been creating chances, but as a squad, as a team we didn’t today and just need to hold our hands up. They hit us on the break, and I don’t think we handled that well.”
Inverness handled their opponents in a manner that made Greg Tansey feel well chuffed he has returned to the club for a second tour of duty. Signed just before the weekend, Hughes cited the utility player as precisely the type needed with adaptability being key in a tight squad. Tansey left for Stevenage 18 months ago, which wasn’t a great reflection on the Scottish game or Inverness. The fact he passed up an offer from Partick Thistle in order to return to the Highlands at least demonstrates the club’s recent rise is having a positive impact on their pulling power, though.
“I decided quite a long time ago to leave Stevenage and had a couple of offers but as soon as I heard about Inverness I thought I’d rather stick to what I know and it would be a lot easier to settle in here, I know most of the lads and it’s a nice place,” he said. “The club had a sticky patch recently but you can see they are a good side and I’d fancy us against anyone in this league.”
Tansey has no regrets about leaving the club just as it was moving on to a new level. “I was just delighted for them. I knew we had the makings of it if we started to score goals. Players like Billy McKay are priceless, really, they make a massive difference to a team. But last season I was having a good time myself, we were playing well and at the time we were top of the league. Hindsight’s a great thing. I got the opportunity to go down south, I took it and I don’t regret it. There’s no point in regrets, and I’m just delighted to be back.”
Back, in Tansey’s eyes, just in time to help his new/old club make a real push to finish behind only Celtic. “I don’t fear anyone in this league so second spot is up there for grabs. We’ve got two games in hand. We just have to go and win every game.”