‘Taking care’ of Christie paying off for Inverness

Gary Warren, right, is sent flying by Dundee's Luka Tankulic. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS
Gary Warren, right, is sent flying by Dundee's Luka Tankulic. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS
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Many came in hope, perhaps even expectation, of seeing history made in front of their eyes as David Clarkson attempted to emulate a 94-year-old club record by scoring for a ninth successive game for Dundee. As it turned out, Johnny Bell’s record is safe for what may turn out to be a while yet.

Dundee 1-2 Inverness CT

Scorers: Dundee - Stewart (21); Inverness CT - McKay (55), Christie (88)

Instead, we left Dens Park discussing a rising star who had barged his way into the spotlight with a late goal, meaning Inverness did to Dundee what Dundee – and Clarkson – had done to Aberdeen seven days earlier.

As then, it was a fine opportunist goal that secured victory. Ryan Christie, who replaced James Vincent after 72 minutes, was presented with the half-chance Clarkson had craved and prodded the ball home with a delicious flick of the boot, following a cross by Marley Watkins.

Inverness’s impressive season continues and they picked up three points from an afternoon when they hadn’t, according to John Hughes, even played particularly well. He added that this wasn’t meant to be disrespectful to Dundee, for they had made it hard for the visitors to click into gear and find their familiar fluent passing rhythm, certainly in the opening half.

But, when the home side faded after the interval – many suspected this was linked to the departure due to injury of Greg Stewart, one of their stand-outs this season and scorer of the game’s opening goal – Inverness took full advantage of the opportunity to turn things around, even if they did leave it late. A year on from Hughes taking over from Terry Butcher, Inverness have maintained their place as second only to Celtic in the Scottish game. The 19-year-old Christie is their brightest talent, though Hughes is treating him with caution – he has been in and out of the team in recent weeks after a red card against St Mirren in October disrupted his progress.

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“We are taking care of him, he is only young,” agreed Watkins, the creator of the winning goal, afterwards. “He is a great talent and that’s what he is capable of. He skins people in training – sometimes you don’t know how he has even done it. He just needs to keep his head and stay on the right track.

“He needs to express himself, he has a bit of a spark. He can open up a defence. We are all behind him. As long as he keeps learning, he will be fine.”

As for Clarkson, he will just have to begin his record attempt from scratch again. His afternoon on Saturday was notable for one thing – it is the first time he has left the field without scoring a goal since his arrival at Dundee in September. It has been quite a run and, of course, it had to end sometime.

He wasn’t helped by the departure of strike partner Stewart, which prompted Paul Hartley to throw on the hardly like-for-like Simon Ferry. Gary Harkins was pushed further up, meaning he had fewer opportunities to create opening for his team-mates. Harkins’ free-kick set up the opener from Stewart, who drifted in at the back post after 21 minutes and steered the ball past Dean Brill.

Inverness improved after the break, though their equaliser was of the scrappy variety – Billy McKay getting the final touch in a goalmouth melee. How Clarkson yearned for the ball to drop for him. It didn’t even seem to be a case of the others trying too hard to create an opening for their team-mate, which can sometimes happen. It simply wasn’t happening for Clarkson.

He had one or two half-chances, if they were even that. Perhaps the nearest he came to scoring was early in the game when a clever corner from Harkins was pounced on by Clarkson. However, his shot was impeded by team-mate Thomas Konrad.

The German defender was given an earful for his troubles by Clarkson, who might have suspected it wasn’t to be his day. Perhaps it simply was a case of the expectation weighing too heavily on his shoulders – later it was revealed that Clarkson had also been named Scottish Premiership Player of the Month for November, a kiss of death if ever there was one.

“If you are talking about pressure, you would maybe need to ask Clarky,” said Dundee full-back Gary Irvine afterwards. “It didn’t affect the other players. We were just delighted that he was scoring every week, creating records and getting close to records. You have that bit of confidence thinking if he gets a chance, he might take it for us,” added Irvine. “Unfortunately, it never came against Inverness. But for eight weeks now he has been a threat to different teams throughout the league. I am sure he’ll quickly get back to scoring again.”

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