Wednesday 22 November 2017

Hoops get 'reminder' in Cup rehearsal

Inverness CT 1 Celtic 1

Inverness's Marley Watkins (right) and Celtic's Scott Brown (left) battle for the ball
Inverness's Marley Watkins (right) and Celtic's Scott Brown (left) battle for the ball
Celtic's Scott Brown goes down in the box but is subsequently booked for diving
Leigh Griffiths scores the opening goal of the game to give Celtic a 1-0 lead at the Caledonian Stadium
Leigh Griffiths celebrates firing Celtic into the lead
Inverness's Edward Ofere scores his sides equaliser

Roddy Forsyth

Celtic remain on target for a clean sweep of the Scottish honours but Inverness are the one team they have been unable to brush aside in this campaign.

In three league meetings with the Highland Jags, Celtic have won once - a 1-0 victory at home in November - and Saturday's 1-1 draw means they have shed five points from a possible six at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

The Hoops have another two encounters with Inverness yet to fulfil.

The biggest threat to their treble ambitions looks likely to be presented in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park next Sunday.

Both teams will be short of players who started this match, with Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven cup-tied for Celtic and Caley Thistle minus goalkeeper Dean Brill, who was carried off in severe pain after a quarter of an hour of his first appearance since January.

Having overcome the dislocated knee which was responsible for his previous absence, Brill suffered the same injury again, supplemented by ligament damage although, fortunately, his cruciate escaped.

"He worked so hard, especially in terms of the rehab he did with the physio," said Ross Draper, the Inverness midfielder.

"He got back to training - then another setback like that. It looks like a bad one and it's hard to take. It's a big loss and I felt sorry for him missing the semi-final."

Brill's Celtic counterpart, Craig Gordon, who suffered a career-threatening knee injury at Sunderland, said: "You know it's serious when a keeper goes down like that. It was similar to Fraser Forster recently.

"It looks like it could be a long way back for him. Once he gets his head around that, it's a case of setting himself small goals to getting back.

"That will give him focus, but it will be tough for him at the moment.

"You set yourself small goals at a time. That's what I did, then I ticked them off as I went along. His goal will be to get back in the team here. Dean's got a contract, which is something."

Brill had been beaten by Leigh Griffiths after only three minutes, when the striker put a left-foot drive beyond him from the edge of the box.

But, within 90 seconds, Caley Thistle equalised from an Edward Ofere tap-in amid a goalmouth flurry. However, instead of a war of movement, the crowd was presented with a battle of attrition to which the rugged pitch and violently gusting wind contributed.

There was no more scoring, an outcome which left Inverness somewhat the more satisfied, with the Scottish Cup semi-final in prospect.

"It's a different venue on a different pitch," said Gordon. "The one thing for sure is we know we are in for a battle. They were up for it on Saturday and put us under pressure.

"Both teams were trying to press the ball high and it made for a frantic game. If that's anything to go by, they will look to do that again. Hopefully we will play better and get our passing going again.

"Inverness are a good team. They are big and physical. It was a good little reminder we are in for a big fight at the weekend." (© Daily Telegraph)

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