PERHAPS in some parallel universe yesterday, John Hughes was occupying Dundee United’s technical area and Mixu Paatelainen was bellowing out orders to the Inverness players.
Inverness Caley Thistle - 2
Polworth 46; Horner 90
Dundee United - 2
Rankin 26; Mckay 82
It wasn’t too fanciful a proposition.
Certainly Hughes was high on United’s wanted list in October following Jackie McNamara’s sacking but denied the opportunity to speak, while the big Finn was hungry for work.
It was impossible to surmise if either would have been more content in a role reversal yesterday after a thrilling, dramatic share of the spoils.
A fine spectacle it was. United twice led through past Inverness players, while Caley Thistle held the lion’s share of play without capitalising fully.
A Lewis Horner goal with barely 30 seconds of stoppage time remaining salvaged it for the hosts, although United’s slender reward was to move a point closer to Kilmarnock at the foot of the table – now seven points adrift.
The grit and fight the Tannadice side showed was far from typical of a team struggling at the bottom, but Paatelainen was unhappy, particularly with goalkeeper Michal Szromnik’s failure to take the last-gasp cross.
“The ball has come in and we’ve made a wrong decision with how we dealt with that cross. We paid the price,” the Finn said.
“We’ve been excellent over the last five or six weeks and today we showed we’ve got some things going for us. But it’s not enough. We need results.”
There was no doubting United’s desire from the off. Chris Erskine, from kick-off, bounded forward on the left and cut a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Caley Thistle’s Gary Warren only just managed to nick it away from the prowling Billy Mckay for a corner.
With four minutes gone, Warren then gifted possession in his own third with a slack pass collected by Mckay. The former Caley Thistle striker’s determined dig deflected off home defender Danny Devine, allowing keeper Owain Fon Williams to block.
John Rankin made an important block as Liam Polworth wound up to shoot after 25 minutes, but barely a minute later, Rankin showed Caley Thistle how it was done at the other end.
A terrific run and cutback by Scott Fraser, again from the left, found Rankin racing into the box and rocketing a left-foot shot under the bar from 16 yards.
Inverness started to threaten and Danny Devine volleyed just wide, before they squandered the chance of the game right on half-time when the otherwise excellent James Vincent was the guilty party. Polworth’s terrific cross found Vincent reaching to head four yards out and somehow, unchallenged, skewing the ball wide of target.
If United deserved great plaudits for their first-half display, it was
all undone within a minute of the second half restarting.
Caley Thistle were immediately on the offensive and Danny Williams’ cross from the left found Polworth completely unmarked for the simplest of side-foot finishes from ten yards. It was Polworth’s first goal for the club since striking at Tannadice in February 2014.
Into the final ten minutes, United remained a threat and Mckay’s patience and perseverance finally paid dividends eight minutes from time.
Goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams spilled an Erskine cross from the right. Mckay, as he had done so often in home colours, was there to calmly snap up the scrap close in.
A Warren header hit the bar as the hosts frantically tried to battle back.
That never-say-die drive paid off as a Carl Tremarco cross was knocked in by Horner’s head at the back post, with Szromnik claiming an infringement, but badly exposed.
Home manager John Hughes
felt Inverness “dominated” but added: “We need that bit more in the final third.”