Inverness put themselves in Group C’s Pole Position last night as they beat League 1 outfit Raith Rovers to give themselves one foot in the door of the knockout rounds.
It was a long and tense game between the two sides, Raith set out with a five-man defence and offered little going forward while Inverness came out looking to play a smooth passing style of play. Throughout the first half, there was little to get excited about. Tom Walsh and Aaron Doran were seen consistently testing the strength of the Raith defence, and target man George Oakley was often the target of long balls forward. But the Kirkcaldy side kept the front two silent throughout the half, with the highlanders having very few scoring chances.
The Rovers game plan seemed to be playing for a draw. And a strong defensive display almost gave them as such. But they struggled in providing any threat going forward. And they paid the price early in the second half. Tom Walsh raced down the right wing, creating space for a nice passing move which was held up well by Oakley, before laying off Nathan Austin for a calm finessed finish into the bottom left corner of Robbie Thomson’s net.
Raith’s game plan was basically flipped after the introduction of former Inverness and Dunfermline midfielder Nathaniel Wedderburn. The big midfielder was a rock in the centre and created a lot more chances for the men in yellow. Which ultimately led to an equaliser in the 61st minute. A well worked corner caught Inverness slacking, and Gillespie rifled a shot of the crossbar and in, sending the home fans into a fit of rage.
What followed was a flurry of slack defending from Raith combined with relentless forward play for the hosts. There were three penalty claims for handball, the last was waved off correctly. But the same can’t be said about the first two. Shaun Rooney was given a yellow card for what the home side felt was a fair challenge but was deemed reckless by referee. Liam Polworth was also cautioned for protesting. Raith keeper Thomson attempted to waste time at each goal kick but ultimately paid the price.
Tom Walsh managed to latch onto a Jordan White flick before being brought down by McKay. Calder pressed on and managed to get a shot away but Thomson only parried it into the path of 17 year old Daniel Mackay who slotted home much to the dismay of the travelling players and fans. Jordan White would proceed to shield the ball for most of the remaining time. Right Back Shaun Rooney almost scored a third but was denied and it finished 2-1.
The notable performances came from Inverness’ Tom Walsh and Raith Rovers’ Nat Wedderburn. Walsh’s return to full-time football has revitalised his career and he’s been a tremendous asset in the Betfred Cup so far for the highlanders. As for Wedderburn, his size and strength was almost unrivalled in the Championship and he looks to be a significant signing for the League 1 side. Despite only playing 45 minutes he flipped the game upside down and provided much needed strength going forward and created many chances from it.
The result, along with Hearts’ 5-0 thrashing of Cowdenbeath mean that Inverness are in pole position and any form of result in Edinburgh will see them through. Hearts will have to win to catch the highland side.
Inverness CT 2 (Austin 49, Mackay 88)
Raith Rovers 1 (Gillespie 61)
Possession : INV 59%/41% RAI
Shots: INV 10 (5)/3 (1) RAI
Corners: INV 12/3 RAI
Fouls: INV 15/11 RAI
MotM: Tom Walsh, Inverness CT