INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE 6–1 COVE RANGERS
It was the worst possible start to the New Year as Caley Thistle shrugged off the loss of the first goal to romp to victory with veteran Billy McKay helping himself to a hat-trick.
With Charlie Gilmour and Shay Logan out injured, and Max Johnston recalled from his loan by Motherwell, Jim McIntyre was forced into making two changes. Scott Ross took over at right-back, Fraser Fyvie replaced Gilmour at the heart of the midfield, and last week’s super sub, Leighton McIntosh, started on the left.
Much like the game in Inverness in August, Caley Thistle began on the front foot, and very nearly opened the scoring in the first minute. A long pass over the top had Jack Sanders backpedalling, he headed clear, but only as far as Billy McKay, and the striker cushioned the ball on his chest before unleashing a twenty-five-yard volley which cannoned off Stuart McKenzie’s left post.
Our first opening came in the fifth minute when Gerry McDonagh laid a pass off for Mitch Megginson to run on to, the captain denied by Ram, who raced across to clear. From the resultant corner, swung in by Fraser Fyvie, Mitch looped a clever header goalwards, but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Luis Longstaff has been a constant threat for Cove in recent months, and the winger showed some fancy footwork in racing away from Delaney before firing in a dangerous low cross from the bye-line. McDonagh dummied the ball, but the onrushing McIntosh could only shoot over from six yards.
Play was swinging from end to end now, and Caley Thistle were next to threaten. Hyde played a pass through the middle of the park which Aaron Doran ran on to. McKenzie was quickly off his line to make a brave save, and when the ball ran free to McKay, the Northern Irishman sent in a low angled shot which bobbled wide of the far post.
The big keeper was called into action again in the nineteenth minute. Billy McKay turned provider, playing in Hyde. His low shot was well struck, but McKenzie was equal to it, making the save with his left foot.
The opener came in the twenty-first minute after a succession of Cove corners. The first two were taken by Longstaff on the right, the second of which saw Ram head over his own crossbar. Fyvie took the third, from the left, and his perfect inswinging delivery found the head of Jack SANDERS who powered it into the net.
We might have had a second just two minutes later when McIntosh ran and passed into the box, but Megginson was crowded out. Fyvie then had a shot blocked and McIntosh tried his luck, but his effort from the edge of the box took a deflection and Ridgers was able to gather.
Out of the blue Caley Thistle levelled. Scott Ross was penalised for a challenge and when Welsh swung the free-kick in from the Inverness left, Billy McKAY dived full length to head past McKenzie from six yards.
Jim McIntyre was forced into making a change immediately after. Gerry McDonagh had been limping as a result of a dead leg, and after some treatment, had to leave the field to be replaced by Jamie Masson. He took over on the left with Leighton McIntosh joining Megginson in the middle.
Masson’s first involvement was to feed the ball into the box after a period of sustained Cove pressure, but Mitch’s angled shot flew over the bar.
The home side went in front five minutes before the break with a goal of utter simplicity. A long free-kick was sent in from the centre circle and Danny DEVINE ran away from his marker to volley home.
Soon after it was 3-1. McKay got his head to a cross from the right and the ball struck Jack Sanders’ outstretched arm. The referee was quick to award the penalty, the central defender was booked, and Billy McKAY sent McKenzie the wrong way from the spot.
The players were sent out very early from their half-time break, Kyle McClelland taking over in central defence from Mark Reynolds, who had been struggling with illness.
Within three minutes of the restart, a defensive calamity saw Caley Thistle extend their advantage.
Stuart McKenzie played the ball across the box, Sanders couldn’t reach it, and Daniel MacKAY raced away from Scott Ross before guiding his shot beyond the keeper from deep inside the box. McClelland attempted to clear but could only hammer the ball into the roof of the net.
In no time at all, it was five, and again the concession of the goal was self-inflicted. Once more, we could not deal with a long pass into the box, Stuart came out but failed to gather, and with Daniel MacKay causing havoc, the ball deflected off Scott ROSS and into the net.
The team were clearly shell-shocked but tried to fight their way back into the game, and Fraser Fyvie should have reduced the arrears in the fifty-fifth minute. He made space for himself inside the box, but from ten yards shot at Ridgers who deflected the ball over for a corner.
That was to be a rare foray forward and Caley Thistle continued to pick us off at will.
A cross from the right found Aaron Doran free and his angled header beat McKenzie, hit the post, and sat up perfectly for Billy McKAY to slide in to complete his hat-trick.
Luis Longstaff lifted spirits briefly with a mazy run and shot, but his twenty-yard strike took a deflection and Ridgers was able to scramble across to push the ball for a corner, and soon after, Blair Yule ran into the box, but shot straight at the home keeper.
Caley Thistle made a succession of substitutions in the closing stages and thankfully the game petered out with no further damage incurred.
INV CAL THISTLE: (4-3-2-1) Ridgers; Carson, Devine, Ram (Strachan 86) Delaney; Welsh, Hyde; Henderson (Cairns 81), Doran (Thompson 81), D. MacKay (Boyd 74); McKay (Nicolson 81)
Substitutes: C. MacKay, Oakley,
Goalscorers: McKay (32, pen 44, 64), Devine (40), MacKay (50), Ross (og 52)
COVE RANGERS (4-4-2): McKenzie; Ross, Sanders, Reynolds (McClelland 46), Scully; Longstaff, Yule, Fyvie, McIntosh; Megginson (c), McDonagh (Masson 34)
Substitutes: Gourlay, Towler, Vigurs, Leitch, Dunne
Goalscorers: Sanders (21)
Booked: Ross (22), Sanders (44), Scully (69)
Referee: Craig Napier
Article Copyright © 2023. Permission to use quotations from this article online is only granted subject to appropriate source credit and to www.coverangersfc.com