There are many mysteries within the game of football, none more so than our failure to win regularly on our away trips to the Highlands. It would appear that no matter what tactics are deployed or the personnel changes that are made to the side, nothing seems to be able to break the domination Inverness have over us at the Caledonian venue.
Our record up there is very poor and an explanation for this is difficult to pinpoint. I am not trying to take any credit away from Terry Butcher’s in-form side who were deserved winners, but somewhere along the way we must wonder what we have to do to gain three points at Inverness on a consistent basis. Is it a case of just another bad day at the office or is there something much deeper to this enigma?
Having put so much effort both physically and mentally into last week’s victory over Hearts, it may have left the players a little jaded with their preparations and approach to the match. The shortage of experienced players within the squad restricts the manager’s options and this is always going to be the case until the transfer window opens up next month.
We need to be able to adapt to the opposition in front of us and if that means setting up a more defensive formation then so be it. Inverness are a notoriously stuffy side to break down on their own patch and generally visiting sides need to be patient if they are going to find the breakthrough. Inverness have achieved such success by capitalising on their opponents’ frailties which has instilled a winning mentality at the club.
The ankle injury sustained by Leigh Griffiths in the derby didn’t rule the striker out of Saturday’s defeat, but I am sure he would have struggled throughout the course of the match. With Eoin Doyle also sitting on the subs’ bench, Ivan Sproule was handed a starting berth up in attack. We do need other members of the squad to be chipping in with goals and to an extent, the likes of Doyle and Wotherspoon have duly obliged. This, however, isn’t going to be enough to ensure we remain and challenge at the top end of the division.
Pat Fenlon will be taking it one step at a time in his quest to make the club stronger where there will be some inevitable obstacles to overcome. We have made considerable progress this season with wholesale changes made to the playing staff and, with this in mind, the result up at Inverness is one that is going to happen from time to time.
This is where I believe being able to modify the style of our play according to the venue of certain fixtures could prove telling. Playing competitive fixtures at the likes of Fir Park or Pittodrie, for example, doesn’t appear to suit some players for one reason or another. Team selections therefore need to be carefully assessed and that’s coming from my own recollections as a player. I sometimes had to make way in the side for an alternative option depending on where or who we were playing against.
Hopefully, with further additions to the squad in January, the manager will have more scope to make such decisions when required. Our threadbare squad was always going to be put to the test but perhaps this moment has arrived sooner than some may have envisaged. Inverness, who possess a smaller playing budget than ourselves, have shown that a good work ethic sprinkled with one or two talented individuals can deliver success.
The next couple of fixtures are vitally important and could shape our season heading into the new year. Motherwell travel to Easter Road on Saturday which will be another stern test. However, we have only been defeated once at home this season and should be confident heading into this fixture. We perhaps got a couple of breaks the last time we faced the Fir Park side and they will be looking for revenge.