Sport Soccer

Sunday 21 January 2018

Caley cup triumph 'as good as it gets'

Inverness CT 2-1 Falkirk

Inverness manager John Hughes led his team to their first national trophy after beating Falkirk to win the Scottish Cup
Inverness manager John Hughes led his team to their first national trophy after beating Falkirk to win the Scottish Cup

Roddy Forsyth

It is one of the peculiarities of Scottish football that the manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle knows that home crowds will never amount to more than a fraction of the multitudes who flock to see a mythical monster in Loch Ness, just along the road.

And unless Nessie purchases a season ticket for the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, it will be a push to get attendances above 4,000.

For the season just ended - during which Inverness won their first national trophy by beating Falkirk in the Scottish Cup final, finished third in the Scottish Premiership and secured a place in the Europa League qualifiers - the average crowd was 3,733.

"Can we go any better than this?" manager John Hughes asked rhetorically, contemplating the statistics of unprecedented success in the Highland capital. "No, I don't think we can if we are being realists. But it does not stop you setting standards and driving the club forward.

"We are going to lose a few. Graeme Shinnie is away to Aberdeen, Marley Watkins might go, big Edward Ofere will probably go."

Those faithful fans - and those who turned out for the big day - were treated to a dramatic finale to a game which, as both managers admitted, featured long passages of play when neither performed to anything like their best.

The redeeming feature of the first half was a delightful strike by Watkins, the consequence of a swift linking move in which the ball was funnelled through Ofere and Aaron Doran to the striker, who displayed a dancer's touch to skip past Jamie MacDonald and place his shot into the empty net.

When Carlo Tremarco was sent off for a despairing foul on Blair Alston, the current of play, which had flowed serenely in favour of Inverness, now caught the Highlanders in a riptide and Peter Grant's headed equaliser had the scent of destiny about it.

However, Inverness were not to be denied.

When Falkirk captain David McCracken was caught off balance under a dropping ball in his own half, Watkins pounced, galloped away and saw MacDonald parry his shot straight to substitute James Vincent, who had tracked his team-mate's run all the way from his right-back beat to turn home the rebound.

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