The future of St Mirren manager Tommy Craig must be hanging in the balance this morning after his team was systematically taken apart by an Inverness side which marched imperiously into the fifth round of the Scottish Cup following this one-sided replay.
Scorers: Inverness CT - Warren (20) Tansy (23 pen) Williams (67) Shinnie (90)
There has been talk of “total football” emanating from the city’s main football club yet, while that lavish assessment of John Hughes’ style may be a touch outlandish, there is no questioning the ethos propelling Inverness onwards and upwards.
Last night it could easily have been a six or seven-goal dismantling of poor St Mirren with the home side enjoying the luxury of squandering a hefty weight of chances and still winning handsomely. Victory set up an away fifth-round tie at Partick Thistle and kept up Caley Thistle’s unbeaten home run this season after nine outings.
It is the dogged adherence to the sometimes pretty patterns of Hughes’ passing style that, increasingly, has inferior outfits chasing shadows.
After six games without a win coming into the replay, Tommy Craig needed something for the disgruntled fans – all 73 making the trip – to get their teeth into last night. But Saints were a team bereft of ideas and, too often, a touch of the ball.
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In contrast, the Highlanders’ movement was slick, aggressive and positive throughout as Gary Warren, Greg Tansey, Danny Williams and Graeme Shinnie struck.
The hosts re-instated suspension-free Ross Draper and the outstanding Marley Watkins after one-game bans, with Nick Ross and young Ryan Christie dropping to the bench. Jim Goodwin’s muscle was restored for St Mirren in place of James Marwood after serving his three-match suspension.
The first 20 minutes were lame, admittedly, but it all changed when a Tansey corner speared to the front post with some venom was met sweetly by the head of defender Warren leaving homecoming goalkeeper Mark Ridgers static as it flashed into the net.
As Watkins marauded into the right side of the Buddies penalty area a couple of minutes later he was bundled down clumsily by the hapless Goodwin. There was hush as referee Calum Murray reached for his pocket to draw only a yellow card on the much-maligned culprit. Tansey, though, was less forgiving, sending Ridgers the wrong way from the spot.
Then followed a series of near misses, with Saints clinging on to the two-goal deficit by the skin of their teeth. The best of them came from Watkins’ cleverly-weighted pass which sent Danny Williams into clear sight of goal, but he fired lamely into Ridgers’ grasp.
Watkins then popped up to the left of the away box, hanging the ball up in the air enticingly for the waiting James Vincent a few yards out. Somehow, the lively midfielder failed to get full purchase on his header and Ridgers held the ball on the line.
Early in the second, the referee was shy to reach for his pocket as Goodwin felled Williams but the moment seemed to be drawing nearer.
There were faint signs of an attacking pulse from St Mirren as substitute Adam Drury showed a turn of pace and flighted a decent cross towards Steven Thompson, but defender Josh Meekings did well to out-muscle the big striker.
At the other end, Williams whistled one high and wide as the hosts sought to inflict the killer blow. Williams’ moment – and the decisive strike – was to come, though, in the 67th minute. Again, the boundlessly energetic Welshman Watkins was in the thick of it as he sent a superb diagonal ball bouncing across the penalty box.
Billy Mckay, back in among the goals lately, struck the bar from close in but Williams was there to net directly from the rebound. As Mckay drove into Ridgers’ arms and Warren smacked another header off St Mirren’s bar, the 3-0 scoreline was shaping up to be a great escape for the beleaguered visitors, just without the exhilaration.
Run ragged and utterly sapped of spirit and energy by the close, St Mirren conceded a fourth in stoppage time when Inverness skipper Shinnie curling a low shot around the diving Ridgers to make the final score a little more reflective of their dominance.
For St Mirren, manager Craig’s future seems to be hanging like a thread.
Inverness CT: Brill; Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Draper, Tansey; Watkins (Christie 74), Vincent, Williams (Doran 76); McKay (Ross 84). Subs: Esson, Devine, Tremarco, Polworth.
St Mirren: Ridgers; McAusland (Brown 63), Goodwin, Tesselaar; Naismith, McLean, Osbourne (Ball 73), McGinn, Kelly; Reilly (Drury 53); Thompson. Subs: Kello, Marwood, Teale, Caldwell.
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