IT WAS never likely to be a day to dwell on as Inverness and Dundee battled earnestly against a challenging surface as much as each other and, true to form, both managers were already casting an eye to huge midweek tests after a draw that aided the ambitions of both.
Inverness CT - 1
Dundee - 1
The Dark Blues remain very much in the top-six hunt, while Caley Thistle edged a little closer to realising their great European qualification dream, helped by Dundee United’s deepening troubles.
Manager John Hughes, then, was immediately preoccupied by his team’s trip to Pittodrie on Wednesday, while counterpart Paul Hartley spoke of a huge derby against United.
The peculiarities of the Bosman transfer rules will bring yesterday’s man of the match, Graeme Shinnie, square up against his future employers in the Granite City but Hughes is confident his soon-to-depart skipper will have no qualms about shooting down the Dons if he gets the chance.
The day might have been all the sweeter had substitute Edward Ofere not fluffed a great chance late in the day, but Hughes is relishing the second-versus-third showdown.
“Shinnie has scored a few goals for us this season and he was different class for us again today,” Hughes said. “He will be man of the match on Wednesday, too, trust me – if I pick him.
“He will want to show Aberdeen what kind of player they are getting – that’s the kind of boy he is. I have touted him for a Scotland call-up and he maybe needs to go to Aberdeen for that to happen in the future.
“He has been outstanding for us. He has been great to play with, has great values and works ever so hard.
“He works on his right foot to improve it, he’s a fitness fanatic and he has a big future in the game. Aberdeen have got themselves a wonderful player.
“But we will go there on Wednesday and they’ll know they’ve been in a game.”
Hughes believes there are plenty of twists and turns left in the battle for a European place, despite the eight-point advantage on United.
“It’s going to be nip and tuck until the end of the season. It’s a point today and it might be the point that takes us where we want to go,” he said. “United have a game in hand, but I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up.”
A rutted surface was tough on both sides but the hosts were intent on getting the ball down and passing. They soon grabbed the initiative in a dominant first-half display where Dundee failed to test keeper Ryan Esson once.
After just three minutes, Greg Tansey had a dead-ball opportunity 30 yards out and tested keeper Scott Bain, who failed to a hold the fierce strike cleanly, but recovered.
When Dundee’s Greg Stewart was brought crashing down soon after, his free-kick dig was meek by comparison and struck straight against the home wall.
Tansey’s chipped free-kick after 17 minutes was met by a Marley Watkins head-flick that bounced wide and eight minutes later, Tansey accelerated past a couple of challenges and let rip from 20 yards. This time Bain clutched confidently. Pressure was cranking up on Dundee and an Aaron Doran burst of pace in the 33rd minute drew another Bain save for a corner.
But the game was crying out for inspiration which eventually came in the 53rd minute, and for previously unthreatening Dundee.
Stewart’s ball set up David Clarkson to smash low under Esson’s diving body from 15 yards.
Caley Thistle, shaken, hit back almost immediately. Nick Ross sent in a cross from the right, missed by the head of Ryan Christie, and Shinnie cut inside determinedly, before spearing a diagonal strike home from ten yards.
Play was opening up. Doran struck the side-netting soon after and then Clarkson swung a free-kick over the wall but wide of target.
The introduction of big Edward Ofere up front signalled the hosts’ intent for the closing stages, but the Nigerian was to miss a glorious chance with nine minutes left.
Watkins’ flick knocked the ball into Ofere’s path closing in on Bain, but his touch past the keeper bounced off-target.
“Overall I was pleased with the players ahead of a massive game for us on Wednesday,” Hartley said. “It is a big game and one where we want to do well. It’s a derby game and there should be a good atmosphere so we’re looking forward to it.
“I don’t think the last derby [a 6-2 defeat] comes into it. Everyone else mentions it, not us. As a manager I tend not to dwell on the past. I look to the future.
“I don’t think it counts if you are on a good run or a bad run. Derbies are difficult to predict. It’s a battle.”
ICT: Esson, Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie, Draper, Tansey, Ross (Kink 83), Christie (Ofere 70), Doran, Watkins. Subs not used: Brill, Vincent, Devine, Williams, Polworth.
Dundee: Bain, P McGinn, McPake (Davidson 62), Konrad, Dyer, Thomson, Ferry (McAlister 70), McGowan, S McGinn, Stewart, Clarkson (Harris 82). Subs not used: Letheren, McAlister, Gadzhalov, Wighton, Heffernan.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 3,362.
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