Saints 2-2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Report of match 4th August 2012
Reporter Stuart Gillespie
If Lewis Guy's Saints debut is anything to go by we're in for an interesting season. A miss, a goal and a red card means the forward won't be forgetting his first Buddies game in a hurry.
First, the miss. I said after the Carlisle game his heading was poor and that was the case again today as he somehow put wide a cross from Gary Teale. Next, the goal, which came a few minutes later. Teale and Paul McGowan combined well to create the opening for Guy and he finished with aplomb to give us a half-time lead.
That was perhaps fortunate and Inverness Caley Thistle were on top for large periods of the second half. Eventually they equalised through Nick Ross and quickly went in front thanks to Billy McKay. We could have few complaints but in stoppage time Darren McGregor headed in the equaliser, only for Guy to be sent off for pushing over Caley Thistle's Ross Draper as he tried to get the ball back. An action packed performance it's fair to say.
As for the rest of it? Well, we started slowly, woke up midway through the first half and then completely switched off in the second. At least this time we did respond to going a goal down and forced an equaliser. Who knows what would have happened if we'd kept 11 men on the park for the end of injury time.
As expected Saints were a bit shy of players due to injuries and suspensions so the bench was crammed full of youngsters - and even then we only had six subs. A pretty poor state of affairs and surely another kid could have been found to make up the numbers. Nearly every available senior player started, Jon Robertson the unfortunate one to miss out. In what looked like a 4-4-2 Sam Parkin and Guy made their debuts up top, with Teale and Dougie Imrie on the wings. The back four was as expected, Kenny McLean joining Paul McGowan in midfield. McKay was up top for the visitors, with Andrew Shinnie and Aaron Doran expected to supply the ammunition and also take a few shots on goal themselves.
We seemed rather nervy in the opening minutes, a number of poor pieces of control and misplaced passes. One nearly cost us dear, McGregor seeming to have done well to work the ball clear only to divert it to Andrew Shinnie. He ran in on goal but wasn't able to get a decent shot away, putting the ball wide when he should probably have hit the target. Caley Thistle were forcing us to sit a bit too deep - Doran curling a shot wide with the help of a deflection - before we finally created half a chance of our own. McGowan looked to have picked out Guy with a fantastic ball across the park but the debut boy was unable to get to it. Instead Imrie ran onto it and smacked it towards goal, unlucky to see it flash wide.
Imrie was in the mood - the booing from his old fans perhaps spurring him on - and another decent move ended when he let rip from distance and Esson could only parry the shot, Guy's attempt to overhead kick the rebound failing to come up trumps. We seemed to have woken up a bit and Guy should have had us in front when Teale found him unmarked with a brilliant ball into the box but, as with the Carlisle friendly, he headed wide from a terrific position. He soon showed he's a bit better with his feet. After Teale skinned someone - yes, he really did tear someone apart - he played a short pass to McGowan. Last year's sensation then played a delightful through ball to Guy - who was just onside - and forced the ball across Esson and in at the far corner. A superb team goal and a fine finish from one of the summer signings.
You're always at your most vulnerable when you've scored and we switched off momentarily to let Doran – who was given far too much space all day - a chance to shoot but it was straight at Craig Samson. Parkin and Caley Thistle's Ross Draper also wanted to mark their first games for their respective new clubs with goals, Parkin volleying over before Draper drilled in a shot from the edge of the box that Teale stopped on the line. Caley Thistle probably deserved to be level at half-time but as it was we had a slender lead.
It was nearly much greater within minutes of the restart. Parkin did well to knock the ball on for Guy to chase and he managed to get a shot in, however Esson was always favourite to make the save and did so with his legs. Samson was also in action - just - when McKay was able to wriggle free from numerous challenges to curl a shot to the far corner that the officials decided had gone behind with some help from the Saints' keeper's fingers. Caley Thistle were dominating in their bid to find a much needed equaliser but we almost caught them on the break, Guy sending Imrie out wide before charging into the box for the return ball that neither he nor Parkin could get to. Imrie got booked for fouling Raven - who'd flattened him at the end of the first half - before being taken out by Samson as they tried to clear the ball. It looked bad but he was able to continue after some lengthy treatment.
That wasn't the only problem we had to deal with. The rain had started at half-time and was getting heavier and heavier, some thunder and lightning joining in for good measure. With visions of a repetition of the France against Ukraine scenario at this summer's Euros, it made you wonder about the summer football debate again - and the fact we soak the pitch before the game. We had bigger problems though as Caley Thistle continued to batter our goal but again we nearly caught them on the break. A fine pass from Imrie released Guy down the left and he picked out Parkin with a great ball, the big striker shooting wide when he should have hit the target.
We were made to pay with 20 minutes left, seconds after the rain got considerably lighter. The Saints players appealed in vain for offside when the ball found its way to Doran down the right and he whipped in a wicked ball that Nick Ross – who had only been on the park a few minutes – raced onto and stabbed past Samson. It was a fully merited equaliser and we clearly weren't learning as we once again gave Doran lots of space but he waited a fraction too long to get his shot in and Barron was able to dive in to help deflect the ball over the bar. Caley Thistle didn't mind though as a few minutes later they were in front. Lee Mair failed to stop the ball getting through to McKay and he took his time before popping it through Samson's legs to give his side the lead.
Teale seemed to have reverted back to his old ways in the second half and found himself replaced by Robertson late on, but not before he'd wasted a decent free-kick opportunity by leathering it into the stand. A shot from Kenny McLean a few minutes later was even worse. Thomas Reilly replaced Imrie for the last few minutes before Robertson set up Parkin with a chance but his header was poor and went wide. Parkin went rather closer at the start of five minutes of stoppage time when he thundered a shot that looked set to burst the net, only for Esson to brilliantly turn it over the bar. It was merely a stay of execution as Caley Thistle didn't clear the corner, Robertson put it back in, Esson completely missed it and McGregor managed to head it over the line.
Then the fun began. We suddenly seemed to think we could win it and Guy wanted things to get back under way quickly. Inverness, perhaps understandably, didn't and Draper held onto the ball. Guy took issue with this and pushed him in the chest, at which point the former Macclesfield man theatrically fell to the ground. Unfortunately for Guy he had stupidly done this yards from the referee who sent him off. It was the correct decision but Draper was at it - he most certainly didn't need treatment.
Guy went off and took our victory chances with him, but at least we were able to see things out and get a point. However, big improvement will be needed if we're to be pushing for the top six this season - starting with next week's game at Dundee.
Follow Mirren Mad on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mirrenmad
Follow Mirren Mad on Twitter @mirren_mad or http://www.twitter.com/mirren_mad
|Competition: Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier Date: Saturday, 4th August 2012 Kick off: 15:00 Venue: Greenhill Road|
|2 - 2||Inverness CT
|2||David van Zanten|
|21||Gary Teale (Robertson 80)|
|7||Dougie Imrie (Reilly 87)|
|8||John Robertson (Teale 80)|
|20||Thomas Reilly (Imrie 87)|
|2||David Raven (Meekings 64)|
|10||Andrew Shinnie (Polworth 87)|
|4||Owain Tudur Jones|
|18||Shane Sutherland (Ross 67)|
|14||Josh Meekings (Raven 64)|
|21||Liam Polworth (Shinnie 87)|
|11||Nick Ross (Sutherland 67)|
|St. Mirren cards shown|
|56 mins||Dougie Imrie||Unsporting behaviour|
|73 mins||Sam Parkin||Unsporting behaviour|
|90+3 mins||Lewis Guy||Violent conduct|
|90 mins||Paul McGowan||Unsporting behaviour|
|Inverness CT cards shown|
|34 mins||Ross Draper||Unsporting behaviour|
|39 mins||David Raven||Unsporting behaviour|
|51 mins||Andrew Shinnie||Unsporting behaviour|
|79 mins||Gary Warren||Unsporting behaviour|