INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle really are making the most of this term.
Scorers: Inverness CT - Ofere (8)
One of only a handful of teams who still have something to play for, they have already made history this season, securing a place in the Scottish Cup final and with that Hampden finale looming large on the horizon, they have the opportunity to lift the first major trophy in the club’s short history. There are also records to crack and bigger platforms to play on.
This was the match in which they broke the club’s best top-flight points tally. It was also the game in which they guaranteed their highest ever league finish, the three points enough to prevent anyone from leapfrogging them into third place. But as well as the top-three finish in the Premiership, it earned qualification for European football for the first time in their existence.
“It was a little bit hairy at times but nevertheless we got the three points and that takes us into Europe and that’s the fairytale,” beamed the delighted Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager, John Hughes. “It’s a remarkable story what the boys have done, right from the word go because this is the bread and butter of the league and that tells you how good a team we are to finish third in the league and get into Europe for the first time in our history and we still have a Scottish Cup final to look forward to. There are a lot of good things happening.
“I’m delighted we got into Europe. I’ve now taken three clubs into Europe – Falkirk, Hibs and now Inverness Caledonian Thistle and this one will be up there.” But despite his input, he was adamant that his players were the guys worthy of the plaudits. Consistent throughout the campaign, they delivered again yesterday.
But despite recent form, including the 5-0 spanking at the hands of champions Celtic last time out, Dundee have proved they are not kicking around this league simply to make up numbers. Surprising some by edging into the top six by the time the league split, they started brightly.
Life among the elite has not been easy, however, and despite their battling qualities, they lacked the finesse in the final ball and the finish to stop Hughes’ team in their tracks, succumbing to their fifth loss on the bounce.
In a match that was closely contested from the outset, the only thing that separated the sides come the final whistle was an eighth-minute goal. It was delivered off the head of Edward Ofere after he was allowed to jump unopposed, to send a Greg Tansey delivery past home goalkeeper Kyle Letheren. But in a match that was end to end, they also had to do the defensive work. There was a goalline clearance and late on, as Dundee made a late push, there was also a fantatsic save by goalkeeper Ryan Esson to palm James McPake’s header round the post.
Both teams spent the afternoon seeking out openings, but they were to prove few and far between. Dundee were limited to a couple of speculative long range efforts by Luka Tankulic and Stephen McGinn though they could have been celebrating just 15 minutes into the match, but when Paul McGinn swung a ball into the area Daniel Devine blocked on the line.
Inverness were not resting on their laurels, though, and McGinn and Letheren took the full hit when they clattered into each other as they left nothing to chance when Ryan Christie played Marley Watkins in.
At the other end, Greg Stewart forced a decent save from Esson, while his opposite number had to look lively a minute later to pluck Ofere’s pass into the area off the toe of Watkins. There was an edge to the game, with some robust tackles.
Not long into the second half, it was looking like the home team had run out of ideas. The will was there but the inventiveness needed to break down their opponents was lacking.
After Ryan Christie was unable to find the net as the ball fell behind McPake and bundled off the youngster and into Letheren’s grasp, James McAlister had a chance but fluffed it.
“I thought we played all right in spells but the set piece done us,” said Dundee manager Paul Hartley. “I thought it was a good open game. They took their chance and we didn’t take our chances.”
That outcome is hardly surprising considering the Highland side have spent this season denying others while grabbing everything that has come their way.
Dundee: Letheren, P McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Dyer, S McGinn (Wighton 75), Thomson (Harkins 81), McGowan, McAlister, Stewart, Tankulic. Subs not used: Brodie, Clarkson, Colquhoun, Irvine, Ferry.
ICT: Esson, Meekings, Warren, Devine, Shinnie, Draper, Tansey (Tremarco 80), Christie, Williams (Doran 75), Watkins (Vincent 63), Ofere. Subs not used: MacKay, Raven, Ross, Kink.
Referee: D Robertson. Attendance: 5,123