Inverness Caley Thistle v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 30th September 2011
Despite going for a ridiculous amount of time without scoring a goal, we're now just one win away from our best ever start to an SPL season. Will it come tomorrow against Inverness Caley Thistle?
I'm rather worried going into this game. We are quite good at helping out teams when they are struggling for form and Caley Thistle have won just once all season. They were even knocked out of the League Cup by Ayr United (something we may endure in a few weeks time). They've hardly been banging the goals in either and again, we are often more than willing to give strikers a confidence boost when they need it most. Then there's the fact that confidence is high after our wins over St Johnstone and Kilmarnock - something that never, ever bodes well when you're a St Mirren fan.
Quite how Caley Thistle have only won once is a mystery. From the highlights of their game against Celtic last week they should have scored five or six, yet didn't manage any. If they can play like that at Parkhead, they should be capable of doing it everywhere and getting the results - although not every defence is as bad as Celtic's. Obviously something just hasn't been clicking yet, which is why they're currently bottom of the league.
For once, we are not and a win tomorrow would not only take us onto 15 points (our highest ever tally after the first round of 11 SPL games), it would also lift us 10 points clear of the drop zone. While we're all dreaming of making the top six, we cannot overlook the fact that we need to get the points on the board to stay up first. Being 10 clear, even at this early stage of the season, would allow us to relax slightly - especially as our next game at Ibrox is unlikely to yield a great deal.
Last week finally saw us come good. There was less messing about at the back, the defence looked strong and we looked dangerous when we attacked (well, in the second half we did at least). It was a refreshing change and is probably how most of us expected us to play when we heard about the change in style. If we keep that up tomorrow there's absolutely no reason we can't make the long journey home with some points. The Tulloch Caledonian Stadium used to be a horrendous place for us to go, but 2007/08 is the only SPL season in which we've failed to register at least one win there.
Mirren Mad has long been calling for Paul McGowan to play in a more advanced position and we finally got it against Kilmarnock last week. The result? He scored twice, could have had a few more and made some great passes. He must be deployed in that position once again. The big question now is whether or not Nigel Hasselbaink comes back into the side. The little Dutchman looked lively when he came off the bench and scored a goal, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start as a sub again. His pace could cause problems for tiring defenders and it's unlikely Gary Teale is going to be dropped any time soon.
The Hasselbaink issue is the only one likely to force a change in team selection. Kenny McLean has done well in the last few games and deserves his place, while Marc McAusland looked reasonably solid against Killie - although seems a bit uncomfortable when asked to play the passing stuff. We also saw solid performances from David van Zanten and Jeroen Tesselaar, both of whom provided crosses for goals. Once again we're without Darren McGregor, Aaron Mooy and Hugh Murray. It's a pity Shuggy has had a set-back in his bid to recover from injury as Jim Goodwin is rapidly closing in on his first suspension of the season.
Terry Butcher has done a good job at Caley Thistle. OK, they were relegated a few months after he took over in 2009 but he promptly led them back to the SPL - a feat no other team has managed. He then got them within a whisker of the top six last season and I'd put more money on them recovering from a bad start than the likes of Hibs and Aberdeen. He's also good value in post match press conferences - unafraid of having a go at the SPL or making a reasonably funny joke.
He doesn't stand for sentimentality either, clearing out a number of players over the summer. Some of them were the ones that have been kicking around for years like Roy McBain and Grant Munro - the latter scoring in their end of season win over Celtic days after being told he was going. Sadly, he has felt the need to keep a hold of Ross Tokely, whose Wikipedia page once described him as a professional mutant. Still hated by Saints fans after his disgusting tackle on Chris Kerr 11 years ago, he usually revels in playing against us.
While Butcher was able to have some say in who stayed and left in the summer - deciding to bin Chris Hogg then sign him back - he had no say in Adam Rooney's future. Anyone that scores goals in the SPL is always going to be in demand and it wasn't a surprise to see him go down south, although his agent did well to get him a deal at Birmingham. Gregory Tade seems to be the man who was brought into replace him and he has managed a couple of goals, while his pace can cause defences problems if they aren't paying full attention.
Other summer signings include Andrew Shinnie, who used to be good in Football Manager and has now linked up with his brother Graeme after leaving Rangers. Aaron Doran - who looked handy against us last season - has signed from Blackburn permanently, while the brilliantly named Aidan Chippendale and David Davies have arrived on loan to boost the midfield. Owain Tudur Jones also has a slightly amusing name but is injured, which is good for us as he's a Welsh international. Butcher didn't get rid of everyone over the summer with talented players like Nick Ross, Johnny Hayes and Lee Cox still capable of doing damage.
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