Inverness CT 0 United 1

Published: 5th August 2017

The League campaign started away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle with both teams aiming for a return to the top flight come the end of the season. With the  hosts having been relegated after finishing bottom of the Premiership and United going so close to by-passing them, both clubs would be looking to make a winning start towards making a quick-fire return to the top tier. By Peter Rundo From the side that defeated Dundee on penalties the previous Sunday, there was just one change and that an enforced one. Mark Durnan was suspended, so Jamie Robson came in at left back with skipper Tam Scobbie switching to central defence. Also out of contention were Scott McDonald and Matty Smith who were also serving bans. New signing Fraser Fyvie wasn’t in the squad, but there was good news with James Keatings, having recovered in double quick time from the injury he sustained at Buckie, on the bench as was Stewart Murdoch returning to action for the first time. Caley Thistle were unchanged from the side that were 2-1 winners at Forfar a week ago. v Inverness CT (A) 5.8.17 First Half United got proceedings underway on a bowling green of a pitch. And Caley Thistle were first to have a attempt at goal but Liam Polworth’s first time effort from 25-yards was well off target five minutes. However, United keeper Harry Lewis had to look lively to keep out George Oakley’s low angular drive. Almost immediately at the other end home keeper Mark Ridgers was at full stretch to parry a Scott Fraser shot and though Paul McMullan got on the end of the rebound his drive off target. But there was better fortune for the visitors after 12 minutes when a Fraser effort was blocked. The ball broke to McMullan who was brought down by Joe Chalmers and from the penalty, McMullan sent Ridgers the wrong way to open the scoring. In the aftermath, Caley Thistle boss John Robertson was sent to the stand for protesting the decision. Soon after, Chalmers drilled in a low shot that Lewis held at the second attempt. However, the home defence were struggling to contain McMullan who this time turned provider with a lovely lofted through ball to Sam Stanton. Unfortunately when he got his shot away, it was blocked by a defender for a corner. The Highlanders continued to make most of the running with greatest threat coming down their left through Calder. Meanwhile, At the other end, McMullan continued to be a thorn in the home side’s flesh with his running off the ball. It was fast and furious stuff with chances at both ends. Just after the half hour mark, Jordie Briels was on the end of another McMullan pass only to be closed down, whilst at the other end, Calder fired over. Four minutes from half-time, there was a narrow escape for United. Iain Vigurs flighted over a free-kick from the left from which Brad McKay’s diving header went narrowly past. And two minutes later we had the first bookings. Ross Draper was booked for diving and so too was Tangerines’ skipper Tam Scobbie following an altercation with aforementioned Draper. Just before the interval, Calder teed up Oakley on the left, but the angle defeated him and his shot hit the side-netting. Second Half Caley Thistle opened the second half on the offensive forcing a couple of early corners which came to nothing. Indeed it took United six to get upfield, Fraser playing the ball into the feet of Stanton who fired well over. On 55 minutes the danger of Calder was removed after he went off injured after a collision with Lewis Toshney with Jake Mulraney replacing him. David Raven became the third player to be booked for a foul on Billy King after 62 minutes. Shortly afterwards, Polworth fired a 25-yarder a foot or so over as the hosts chased an equaliser. Midway through a half which was producing fewer chances than the first, Keatings returned to action with Scott Allardice making way, Sam Stanton stepping back beside Briels in front of the back four. With 20 minutes left, Sam Stanton passed up a great chance to wrap up the three points. Having played in Keatings, Ridgers cleared the danger but only directed the ball to Stanton, 20 yards out, but he fired the ball over the unguarded goal. Vigurs was then booked for a foul on McMullan on the half hour mark, but fortunately United’s scorer recovered after receiving treatment and McMullan also saw yellow after 79 minutes for his failure to retreat at a free-kick. Play became a bit ragged leading to a plethora of bookings. As the clock ticked down, McMullan had a shot blocked on the edge of the box and the home side stepped up their efforts in quest of an equaliser. Briels was booked with five minutes left and at the same time Willo Flood came on for Scott Fraser. Two minutes from time Brad McKay was cautioned far a high challenge on King and before the final whistle Matty Elsdon was similarly penalised for a reckless challenge on Keatings. Summary – United will play better this season, but these were three invaluable points against one of the potential title rivals. And with players to come back into the side, it shows that there is strength in depth, something that was in short supply last term. Man of the match – By scoring the winner and providing most of the threat Paul McMullan was clearly a strong contender, but equally influential in earning three invaluable points was Harry Lewis in goal who didn’t put a hand wrong and gets the accolade. Teams: Inverness CT (4-4-2): Ridgers, Raven, McKay, Elsdon, Chalmers, Polworth, Draper (Capt), Vigurs (Zschusschen 79), Calder (Mulraney 55), Baird (Bell 74), Oakley. Unused Subs: Essen (GK), Cooper, MacDonald. United (4-2-3-1): Lewis, Toshney, Scobbie (Capt), Edjenguélé, Robson, Allardice (Keatings 68), Briels, Fraser (Flood 85), Stanton, King, McMullan. Unused Subs: Mehmet (GK), Murdoch, C Donaldson, Chalmers, Thomas. Referee: Craig Thomson Crowd: 3415 (Arabs 1182)