THE PAUL CHALK COLUMN
TEN points was the gap Caley Thistle had to begin to bridge on Championship leaders Dundee United at the start of the weekend. However, in-form United’s testing trip to Morton was called off due to a frozen Cappielow pitch, while second-placed Ayr’s game against Arbroath was postponed for the same reason. That opened the door for John Robertson’s Highlanders to steal a march on their rivals by winning at Alloa Athletic.
The Wasps stung Caley Thistle with a late draw in Inverness earlier this season, although a freshened up side beat them 3-0 in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup.
On their own patch, Peter Grant’s Alloa are no mugs – just ask Dundee United who lost there in October, while the part-timers stay within striking distance of a few teams just outside the relegation play-off position.
Last week, the Inverness team edged a vital 1-0 victory over Dundee, who had recently shrugged off indifferent form to climb into third spot, ahead of ICT at that point, who almost slipped out if the top four after back-to-back 3-0 defeats against Dundee United and Arbroath.
As I wrote seven days ago, that was a crucial shot in the arm, which had to be backed up by a winning run to try and haul the frontrunners in again.
Alloa’s synthetic surface was green for go and an own goal from Scott Taggart and a screamer from last Saturday’s match-winner Aaron Doran sealed a 2-0 win for the Caley Jags. A red card for Alloa’s Liam Dick for a heavy challenge on James Keatings in the second half no doubt helped ICT guide towards the victory.
A further boost for Inverness as they came off at full-time was that Dundee had lost 2-1 late on at home to Stephen Dobbie-inspired Queen of the South, meaning the Highlanders are five points clear of the Dark Blues who were just a few weeks ago above them.
Ayr will leapfrog ICT this Tuesday if they defeat visitors Dunfermline Athletic, but the Pars’ pulsating 5-1 pasting of Partick Thistle at the weekend will be a warning to the Honest Men.
However, at worst Caley Thistle will be just one point behind Ayr when these teams tussle at the Caledonian Stadium this Saturday.
Should ICT make it three wins in succession then that’s exactly the form they require to keep the pressure on Dundee United, whose three league losses have all come away from Tannadice, which seems to have become a fortress.
Doran, speaking after the defeat of Dundee, reminded any supporters who feel they can’t catch the leaders that the club have twice come into contention before winning the title in the Division One days.
In John Robertson’s first spell in charge, his players went on a 10-game unbeaten run to pip Clyde and take their place in the SPL as debutants.
Then, under Terry Butcher in 2009/10, they pegged back Dundee’s 15-point advantage to win the league and return to the top-flight just a year after relegation.
History therefore shows that by believing in yourselves, letting your ability shine through and delivering relentless positive results, including against Dundee United, can make this a genuine title chase, despite the Tangerines’ strength in depth and buying power come the January transfer window.
- Paul Chalk’s Alive and Kicking sports show is on North Highland Radio every Friday from 7pm. You can listen via the station’s website, the Tune In app or your smart speakers.
This coming Friday (December 6), Caley Thistle first-team coach Barry Wilson is a special guest. See the Alive and Kicking Facebook page for more information.