A SOLID defensive performance and a string of wonderful saves from goalkeeper Calum Antell kept Inverness CT at bay with the Premiership side earning a single-goal win in this pre-season friendly, writes Graeme Macleod.
Antell was restored to the starting line up after missing Thursday’s win at Nairn St Ninian while Martin MacDonald, Sam Urquhart, Bradley Halsman, Conor Gethins and Tony Wallace – who only completed his move to the club in the morning – also started. Gregg Main, John Cameron, Alan Pollock, Andrew Hardwick and Andrew Skinner were all unavailable and Wayne Mackintosh continues to miss out through injury.
As expected, Inverness – with a full squad at their disposal – spent the majority of the match on the front foot but their hosts worked tirelessly to restrict them as much as possible with Antell excelling between the posts.
The only goal of the game arrived 23 minutes in on a rare occasion when the revamped Nairn defence found themselves out of shape. Jordan Roberts drove inside from the left and picked out Richie Foran on the far side of the penalty area. The ICT captain unleashed a first time shot which arrowed across Antell and cracked off the inside of the post on its way to finding the net.
Nairn refused to let the goal unsettle them though and their new-look defensive shape paid dividends with a solid and organised showing against the side who finished third in the Premiership last season and won the Scottish Cup – which was on display at Station Park at today’s game.
The closest County came to finding an equaliser was on 43 minutes. Kenny McKenzie found himself in behind David Raven and delivered a low cross which picked out Gethins but his low effort was held by goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
After the match, Les Fridge said: “They are a quality side and I do not think there are any doubts about that. There were times when we did not have a lot of possessions but there were also times when we got on the ball, played some nice football and created a few half chances. Over the piece, we got a lot out of it.
“We have had quite a few games in a short period of time against decent, quality sides. Martin’s game on Tuesday will take care of itself and there will be a lot going on so today was really our last chance for a decent workout, to really get across what we wanted and to put a wee shift in before the first league game next Saturday.”
Fridge went with one up front and changed the structure of his defensive, explaining that a number of circumstances led to the alterations.
He said: “We had a look at the opposition and we had personnel missing, so it gave us an opportunity to try something different. I always think if you are going to do it then you want to try it against a decent side who are going to test you.”
The boss concluded by wishing Inverness CT the best of luck with the second leg of their Europa League qualifier against Astra in Romania on Thursday night.
He said: “What a carrot it is for them with the potential to play West Ham in the next round. We wish them all the best.”
Earlier in the day, Nairn completed the signing of attacker Tony Wallace. He is pictured after the game with manager Les Fridge (picture courtesy of Cutter Photography). For the full story on Wallace’s capture, click here: http://www.nairncountyfc.co.uk/full_news.php?id=142
Nairn County – Antell, Webb, A. Naismith, Glenn Main, MacDonald (C. Maclean 86), Halsman, McKenzie, Wallace, Gethins, Duncanson (R. Naismith 78), Urquhart (Macleod 65). Subs unused – Morrison, S. Maclean (gk).
Inverness CT – Fon Williams (Esson 75), Raven, Williams (Wedderburn 62), Horner (Draper 75), Devine (Warren 62), Meekings (Brown 80), Polworth (Tansey 75), Christie (Doran 62), Foran (Lopez 75), Trialist, Roberts.
Pictures by Donald Matheson