SPL v Inverness Caley Thistle


Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League Attendance: 5449

Kick Off: 15:00 Referee: Steve Conroy

Weather: Cold, Dry 7C

The Highland capital had dreamt of Premier League football on the south bank of the Beauly Firth for some considerable time. Having won the First Division last season, their enforced decampment to Pittodrie Stadium to fulfil the SPL criteria ended with this match against Dunfermline. Their Stadium was transformed during January to allow Caley Thistle to play at home causing the Inverness city centre to buzz all week in great expectation of this historic day. Asher`s the Bakers displayed two large decorated cakes in honour of their football team and all over there were posters proclaiming "Caley`s Coming Home".

The occasion was not to be spoiled. Locals bought up all their allocation of home tickets to ensure a gala atmosphere which unfortunately Dunfermline failed to dampen. Craig Brewster had taken his players away from the hysteria of the week, travelling north to the unlikely football hideaway of the Marine Hotel in Brora. The Marriot Hotel in Inverness was Dunfermline`s overnight preparation point and manager Davie Hay fielded an unchanged team against the side sitting one point above Dunfermline in the SPL.

The Fifers kicked off playing towards the Black Isle but right from the start it was clear that the home side had the biggest desire to win the game. In the third minute Brewster threatened when he flicked on a Richie Hart free kick and Juanjo followed that in the next minute running in to meet a Graham Bayne cross from the right to turn the ball over the crossbar.

Lee Makel brought Caley keeper Mark Brown into the game in the seventh minute, firing in a shot from distance that the keeper saved easily. That brief sortie upfield was followed by more home team pressure. Scott Thomson managed to scramble away a Barry Wilson ball in from the left that Brewster brilliantly dummied through to Bayne. There were 13 minutes on the clock when Andrius Skerla`s challenge on Stuart Golabek earned Caley a free kick that Wilson played off Juanjo before firing a low shot from 25 yards that narrowly went wide of the left post.

Jesper Christiansen, Gary Mason and Gary Dempsey worked a good move down the left but Mason`s final ball into the Caley box created little danger. Goalmouth action was distinctly lacking from the game, but Caley were definitely winning more of the midfield. The first corner of the match came Dunfermline`s way in the 24th minute but Makel`s cross in from the right was easily headed away. A similar fate met Gary Dempsey`s delivery five minutes later after he and Thomson had worked up an opportunity from the left.

Brewster sent Ross Tokely away down the Inverness right, but it was Dunfermline who nearly benefited. Labonte`s clearance from the cross was controlled by Noel Hunt and after a touch from Christiansen, Barry Nicholson crashed in a shot that Brown had little difficulty collecting despite a deflection.

Labonte`s hamstring injury meant Greg Ross came on in his place after just 34 minutes. Hardly had the youngster settled in to his familiar right sided defensive role when Barry WILSON got away from him and evaded Nicholson`s challenge before releasing a superb shot that was heading for the top right corner of the Pars net from the moment it left his foot. This was Caley`s first real shot on target but Derek Stillie could do little to stop this historic first SPL goal in the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

The home support erupted and emotions flowed even faster under their blue and red colours. Craig Brewster came close from a Hart corner in the 39th minute and Lee Makel had another attempt at goal but his shot went high over the crossbar.

The half finished with Stillie coming out to prevent Juanjo getting in a shot after Munro`s lofty pass had been touched on in characteristic style by the Caley player manager.

Had Gordon Ramsay any choice words at half time?

More Caley Thistle pressure resumed after the break, Stillie again having to be quickly out to stop Juanjo and concede a corner on the right. Tokely headed Hart`s cross over the bar. Juanjo was soon back in action down the right sending in a good ball deep into the Pars penalty area that fortunately Greg Ross got away. Toddy conceded a corner and Stillie had to gather a headed effort from Brewster.

Dunfermline were getting little joy from the game and Davie Hay substituted Noel Hunt with Billy Mehmet in an effort to find a way through the tall and resolute Caley defence. Breaking upfield, Andy Tod fed the ball to Christiansen and then the Pars top goalscorer was on hand to fire a shot in on goal but that was blocked. There was a short spell where Mehmet`s presence seemed to create some much needed added push and urgency into the Fifer`s performance but unfortunately Caley were soon to be back in control.

Brewster`s cross from the left on the hour was challenged sufficiently by Skerla to deny Bayne a crack at goal and allow Stillie to gather the ball. At this stage Christiansen was substituted, Darren Young came on in midfield and Barry Nicholson found himself forming the strikeforce alongside Mehmet.

Caley Jag`s supporters thought Wilson had increased their lead in the 71st minute, when the former Rovers man crashed a shot into the side netting with a low drive from the left. Bayne lunged in to deflect a Tokely cross moments later but the ball went wide to the right of target. The second Caley goal duly arrived, however, in the 74th minute. Ironically it came as Dunfermline attacked. A Lee Makel shot was charged down by Russell Duncan and he and Juanjo speedily switched play to the other end of the ground. Duncan received the ball on the left wing and sent it into the heart of the Pars penalty box from where Craig BREWSTER dispatched a left footed strike beyond Stillie. It was Brewster`s seventh goal of the season, his second for Caledonian Thistle and rubbed salt into the decision to allow him to leave East End Park last November.

The nearest the Pars came to scoring was a belter of a shot from Lee Makel that transpired from a Nicholson corner on the right. The Sunderland born midfielder rattled the crossbar but the ball skidded behind into the Pars support. Substitute Darren Young had a good effort in the 82nd minute receiving a ball touched on from Thomson through Dempsey before shooting low to the outside of Brown`s right hand post. That completed Dunfermline`s assault and Caley could and should have increased their winning margin in the dying minutes.

Greg Ross did remarkably well to block a cruncher of a left-footed shot from Darren Dods and then in the 47th minute of the second half Roy McBain and Brewster set up the on-loan Rangers player Bjram Fetai but fortunately he failed to connect as the ball flashed invitingly before him. The final whistle was really a relief to the Pars players and their supporters. It had been a fairly miserable afternoon but for Brewster and his happy Highlanders it was a day for celebration. The result opens a four point gap between Caley and the Pars but with Livingston losing at Ibrox and the Dundee teams sharing four goals at Tannadice, Dunfermline remain in 9th place, five points off the bottom.

The away stand reportedly housed 800 fans for this match. Dunfermline did take a large number up for the game but it is likely that there were significant numbers of local neutrals who just wanted to witness the occasion. This was a day for Caley Thistle fans and not many sides will relish the trip up the A9 in search of points.

Dunfermline Squad: Stillie; Labonte (Ross 34), Skerla, Tod, Thomson; Nicholson, Makel, Mason, Dempsey; Hunt (Mehmet 55), Christiansen (Darren Young 64)

Dunfermline Subs: Langfield, C Wilson, Campbell, Dunn

Dunfermline Strip: Home White and Black with Red Socks

Dunfermline : Labonte (21), Tod (85)

Inverness CT Squad: Brown; Tokely, Munro, Dods, Golabek; Hart, Duncan, Juanjo (Fetai 77), Wilson (McBain 88); Brewster, Bayne (Prunty 82)

Inverness CT Subs: Fraser, McCaffrey, Hastings, Black

Inverness CT Goal Scorers: Wilson (35), Brewster (74)

Inverness CT : none

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