Inverness CT vs Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon.
Gus MacPherson will head up the A9 on Saturday attempting to win a league match for The Ton at the seventh time of asking. Despite a much-improved result and performance in their last league outing against Arbroath, Morton again struggled to breakdown Montrose in last weekend’s SPFL Trust Trophy tie, requiring spot kicks to set up their Quarter Final clash with Queen of the South at Palmerston. In the final game of the first quarter of the season, The Ton sit ninth in the table, with only one win to their name, a ‘smash and grab’ 1-0 victory away to Championship newcomers Hamilton. Gus MacPherson will hope his side can repeat the score line of the Sinclair Street side’s last visit to the Caledonian Stadium.
Loanees Jaakko Oksanen and Oisin McEntee will return to the fold having spent the international period with Finland U21s and Ireland U21s respectively. Oksanen featured as an 88th minute sub in Finland’s second match against Austria, and was an unused sub in their first match against Azerbaijan. McEntee did not feature in either of Ireland’s matches.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Morton will again head into Saturday’s match with only one senior goalkeeper, with young keeper Chris Wylie leaving the club a fortnight ago, and no replacement signed to date.
Nobody in the current Morton squad has ever plied their trade in Inverness. The Caley Jags do have someone in their ranks with somewhat of a link to Cappielow. Right sided defender Wallace Duffy joined Morton on loan from parent club St Johnstone in September last year, only for the loan to be terminated a few days later due to ‘non footballing reasons’. He was subsequently released from the Perth side and signed for Inverness on a two-year deal.
Former Ross County stalwart Michael Gardyne spent the first half of the 2007/08 season at Cappielow. Having brought the youngster in, Jim McInally struggled to give Gardyne a consistent run of games in one position, and as a result, the winger struggled to force his way into the first team squad consistently. Having made ten league appearances for the club, he then joined Second Division Ross County, in his first of three spells with the Staggies.
Tale of the Tape
Morton and Inverness shared the spoils last season – with both sides winning one of the three ties. The first encounter in January, was a pulsating affair in which Morton fought back from a goal and a man deficit to claim a point. Sean McGinty’s close range volley gave the home side the lead in the third minute, however the away side replied immediately after the restart through Shane Sutherland. Daniel MacKay then gave Inverness the lead on the 15th minute, before Rabin Omar’s second yellow card for persistent fouling in the 28th minute left the home side in the lurch. Cammy Blue’s burst forward into the box, tucking home Gary Oliver’s excellent cross to gain a somewhat unexpected point for the home side.
In March, Morton travelled up the A9 with a sense of pessimism, having went nine league matches without a win. Interim boss Anton McElhone’s side defended resolutely and absorbed a lot of pressure in the first period. The Ton grew into the game in the second half, with Luca Colville feeding the ball to the right-hand side to Aiden Nesbitt. Nesbitt cut inside onto his left foot and fired a crisp finish into the far corner of the net. Despite the jubilant celebrations of the squad and McElhone at full-time, it transpired that the Morton board spent the evening interviewing for McElhone’s replacement, with Gus MacPherson being appointed the next day.
Inverness blew Morton away in the third meeting of the sides last term. Scott Allardice gave the away side the lead with a thumping finish before Nikolay Todorov doubled the Caley Jags’ lead less than two minutes later. Despite Robbie Muirhead pulling a goal back on the hour mark, another outstanding finish from Todorov and a late goal from Daniel MacKay sealed an emphatic win for the Highland side.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Inverness have scored the fourth highest number of goals this term, with ten Championship goals to their name. Highland veterans Michael Gardyne and Shane Sutherland have been the creative force for the Caley Jags this term. Gardyne has three league goals this season, while Sutherland has two assists. Inverness look particularly solid this term, having conceded only four league goals, sharing the best defensive record in the division alongside Kilmarnock. Inverness have a robust defensive style, having committed the second highest number of fouls in the division with 93 (11.63 per 90 minutes). Former Hearts goalkeeper Mark Rigers has recorded five clean sheets so far this term.
I spoke to Andrew Young (@alsy73), from The Wyness Shuffle podcast, ahead of the game. Andrew spoke positively of Billy Dodd’s recruitment this season – “Despite a fifth place in the Championship last season and a new manager in his first permanent managerial job, before this season started all of us on The Wyness Shuffle felt pretty confident that Billy Dodds had built an Inverness squad capable of competing at the top end of the table. He added experience, in Michael Gardyne, Kirk Broadfoot and Billy Mckay, and targeted specialists for positions where we’d grown used to seeing squad players slotted in.
As a result, the squad looked better balanced, with better strength in depth, than in any of the previous four seasons. Nevertheless, questions remained – could Kirk Broadfoot still do a job at Championship level, or was he glue-factory fodder, as every Killie supporter claimed? Would Billy Dodds be able to make the step up and immediately put his stamp on the team, or would he be exposed as the half-witted man-child all Dundee supporters are desperate to characterise him as? – and a couple of horribly inept performances against Stirling Albion and Cove in the League Cup group stages did a lot to temper the pre-season optimism.
It’s fair to say that starting the league season with five straight wins probably exceeded almost every Caley Thistle supporter’s expectations. As results suggest, the team’s early-season success has been built on the foundation of a strong defence. Mark Ridgers has been Inverness’s most consistent performer for the past three and a half years, and has started the season in outstanding form; Danny Devine, who by the end of last season had developed into a dependable centre half, seems to have improved further with Broadfoot as his partner, and Broadfoot’s all-round influence has been significant, not just defensively but also in his willingness to carry the ball forward. This is also a strength of David Carson, signed as a midfielder but now established as our first choice right back, whose combative nature must make him a nightmare to play against.
Another key player in the Caley Thistle team is Scott Allardice, who was largely unknown to our supporters when he signed from Bohemians at the start of last season, but has since become the busy mainstay of the central midfield, harrying opponents and breaking up play, but also capable of taking and carrying or recycling the ball. In attacking areas, the team probably hasn’t fully clicked yet, although there has been enough endeavour and individual ability to squeeze out wins in most games. Shane Sutherland, playing just off main striker Manny Duku, has probably exceeded most expectations with the quality of his linking play; Roddy McGregor, an attacking midfielder, has greater potential than anyone else in the squad, but, despite a superb performance against Kilmarnock, isn’t yet at the stage where he is regularly influencing whole matches; in the wide areas, Tom Walsh tends to play in fits and starts, providing flashes of inspiration and threat before falling out of games for long periods, but Gardyne rarely wastes a ball and is fast becoming our most reliable creative outlet.
Finally, and contrary to what we were led to expect by Raith Rovers supporters, Duku has worked his socks off in every game, but hasn’t yet shown himself to be the finisher that a serious title-challenging team needs. In the last three league games, the inevitable dip in results has come, with a goalless draw against Dunfermline and defeat to 10-man Hamilton Accies sandwiching a narrow home win against Queen of the South. A factor in the loss at Hamilton was disruption to the defence: with Devine and Carson both absent, Robbie Deas had to move from left back to the centre, and the full back areas were occupied by Wallace Duffy and Cameron Harper, less experienced players less capable of dominating opponents. Undoubtedly, however, the biggest problem, as identified by Billy Dodds in his post-match interview, was failure to create enough clear chances and to convert those we did make, and the same could be said of the draw at East End Park. For Morton’s visit, therefore, it seems likely that Duku will make way for Billy Mckay, fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Elgin in the Challenge Cup and presumably eager to make his mark in the league having been given very few opportunities so far. Dodds also has options in wide areas, with Aaron Doran and Anthony McDonald potential replacements for Walsh, but above all, he will be desperate to see his first-choice back four restored to the park. On paper, it probably looks like Caley Thistle should be firm favourites for this, but with Morton apparently having been competitive in almost every game, a close match looks likely.”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All match odds are provided by our sponsors – McBookie. All odds correct as of 6am on 14th October 2021 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
The home side head into Saturday’s match as clear favourites, marked at 4/7 to come out victorious. Inverness are 3/1 to win with BTTS and 29/20 to win while maintaining their excellent defensive record. The Caley Jags to win with a -1 handicap chalks up at 19/10.
Gus MacPherson’s side are ranked at 4/1 to leave the Highlands with their first league win in seven outings. Morton price at 9/1 to win with BTTS and a repeat of Morton’s last victory at Inverness would be priced at 7/1. If you fancy the away side to win comfortably you can back Morton on a -1 handicap at 12/1.
Referee - Mike Roncone.
AR1 - Daniel McFarlane.
AR2 - John Stewart.