Inverness CT 0-1 Motherwell: Fletcher breaks Caley

Tempers flare between Inverness players and Motherwell's Marvin Johnson. PIcture: SNS
Tempers flare between Inverness players and Motherwell's Marvin Johnson. PIcture: SNS
  • Motherwell scorers: Fletcher (4)
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KENNY CAMERON, the Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman, spent much of Thursday in Sheriff Court manoeuvrings to remove a group of travelling folk occupying the club car park.

It is the impermanence and migratory tendencies of the Inverness first-team squad, though, that must be vexing the Highland club’s supporters entering the new season.

Five signings have gone some way to replacing Eddie Ofere and Billy Mckay. But the relatively threadbare nature of the home squad was exposed yesterday as Gary Warren and Josh Meekings joined a list of walking wounded.

The team who exited the Europa League with heads held high ten days ago looked flat and out-of-sorts while Motherwell, striking early through impressive new signing Wes Fletcher, were worthy winners.

Ominously for Inverness, in sharp contrast to last season’s dearth of selection troubles, the squad is already riddled with injuries, with a feared leg break for Warren.

“He’s away in an ambulance,” manager John Hughes confirmed, “but I don’t think there was any malice in the tackle from Stephen Pearson, and likewise Gary’s tackle on McDonald.

“It’s a massive concern. First and foremost, he’s the captain this year. If I had 11 Gary Warrens we’d be alright at this club. If there’s not a crack or a broken bone, he’ll be playing next Saturday – he’s that kind of warrior.

“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves. You just get on with it.”

Before kick-off, winger Aaron Doran joined Carl Tremarco, James Vincent, Jordan Roberts and Richie Foran on the casualty list, leaving two bare seats on the subs’ bench.

Latest recruit, the 25-year-old Belgian striker Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo, did make the dug-out and was soon called upon for his debut after 33 minutes amid a dismal Inverness start.

Motherwell, without suspended Lionel Ainsworth and injured Craig Reid, gave three summer captures an immediate debut. On-loan Middlesbrough goalkeeper Connor Ripley went straight in along with Fletcher, signed from York City, and Joe Chalmers from Celtic.

Motherwell immediately held the upper hand. Inside the first 30 seconds, Warren bludgeoned Scott McDonald late to draw a booking.

Three minutes later, 24-year-old Fletcher had Motherwell in front. Caley Thistle’s Greg Tansey gave the ball away just outside the box, Pearson drew a parry from goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams and Fletcher tucked it away neatly from 12 yards.

Fletcher almost produced a second after 24 minutes as he feinted cleverly on the edge of the box, found space and stabbed a low shot narrowly past the post.

When Martin Johnson thundered into the home box and was bumped to the floor by Danny Devine for a penalty, it was clear the hosts were in trouble. Motherwell striker McDonald rarely misses but his strike placed low to the right drew a brilliant save from Williams.

The alarm bells were such that Hughesmade a tactical switch, removing holding midfielder Nat Wedderburn for Mbuyi-Mutombo.

When Pearson clattered through Warren there was further worry as he exited, with Meekings also injured by the break.

Mbuyi-Mutombo provided Caley Thistle’s greatest hope of a revival, demonstrating sharp footwork, good mobility and intelligent use of the ball. But nothing really came off for the home side as they huffed and puffed in Motherwell’s half.

The visitors, in contrast, seemed happy to contain their lead and strike on the break and did a comfortable job of it as the minutes ticked away.

For Ian Baraclough, the Motherwell manager, it was a highly-satisfying start. “It’s a clean sheet and three points away from home, against a club that did very well indeed last season,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for any more, really.”

ICT: Williams; Meekings (Horner 46), Warren (Polworth 42), Devine, Raven; Wedderburn (Mbuyi-Mutombo 33); Christie, Draper, Tansey, Williams; Lopez. Subs not used: Esson, Brown.

Motherwell: Ripley; Law, Laing, McManus, Hammell; Johnson, Lasley, Pearson (Leitch 46), Chalmers; Fletcher (Moult 66), McDonald (Clarkson 83). Subs not used: Twardzik, Kennedy, Thomas, Ferguson.

Referee: C Allan. Attendance: 3,307.