IT IS a hazard of the job, here in the heart of Highland fishing country, for Inverness Caley Thistle managers to lament the ones that got away.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle - 0
Partick Thistle - 0
John Hughes has learned that hard truth in the last year or so.
Few clubs have been pilfered quite so enthusiastically as the team from the Highland capital over the last few years, with Adam Rooney, Ryan Christie, Jonny Hayes, Marley Watkins, Billy Mckay and Graeme Shinnie spirited away through the pull of ambition and cold economics.
That a good few of the above were name-checked in Hughes’ post-match assessment spoke volumes for what was lacking in this scoreless draw.
An entertaining start faded through the first half while the second half, frankly, was dire at times with two thoroughly committed sides cancelling each other out.
“In the first half, I felt we dominated the ball. Some of the football was good and we had a great chance for Miles Storey,” Hughes said. “We never created much after the break but got stronger as the match went on. It is these things that cost you.
“I’m honest enough to say that Miles needs a hand up there. We thought Alex Fisher would be the one but now he’s chipped a bone in his foot. We lose Marley Watkins, Billy Mckay, Ryan Christie – that wee link-up player who can unlock the door – and we’re struggling a bit in the top end.
“We’re looking in that department and trying to get a player of that calibre to help us along. We thought it might have been Anthony Stokes, but it wasn’t to be.”
After a 4-2 home defeat by Dundee a week earlier, Partick manager Alan Archibald seemed to be in damage-limitation mode and erring on the side of caution.
There was early confidence about Inverness as they tore at the Maryhill Jags from the off, creating four good chances in the first 15 minutes.
The Congolese international Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo powered a right-foot attempt just wide from 20 yards. Soon after, Mbuyi-Mutombo linked with David Raven on the right and played Miles Storey into space on the right side of the box. The English striker struck low but was shut down by Tomas Cerny, celebrating his new deal to summer 2018.
Strong pressure after 11 minutes ended with midfielder Iain Vigurs sending a 20-yard left-foot shot only just rising over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Vigurs’ powerful strike from the left side of the area went agonisingly close after Frans’ attempted block spun up and only just over his own bar.
Thistle worked hard to stem the flow and began to press the hosts more aggressively. The home assault lost its edge but Partick were offering little in an attacking sense.
Two minutes before the break, the Highlanders should have taken the lead. David Raven’s cross from the far right was inch-perfect but big Ross Draper’s header skewed over the bar from barely a couple of yards out, near the left hand post.
The second half lost its way as a spectacle – with frequent stoppages and a lack of attacking guile from both sides.
With six minutes remaining, Polworth had a glorious chance to take the lead. Storey’s cutback gave Polworth clear sight of goal just outside the six-yard box but he scuffed the shot into the side-netting.
“It was an awful game and I apologise for that. We’re delighted to come away with a clean sheet and a point,” Partick manager Archibald said. Few would have disagreed.