Inverness Caledonian Thistle consigned to another season of Championship football as St Johnstone crush promotion dream by winning Premiership play-off final second leg 4–0


St Johnstone 4 (May, Macpherson, Hendry, Rooney)

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0

Inverness Caledonian Thistle will be playing Championship football again next season after losing 4–0 to St Johnstone in the play-off final second leg.

The Caley Jags had actually been the better side in the first half, but could not find a way to goal to make the most of their advantage on the pitch – and they were made to pay after the interval.

Two sets of quickfire doubles, first from Stevie May and Cammy Macpherson and then from Callum Hendry and Shaun Rooney, ensured that St Johnstone would stay in the top flight all while putting Caley Thistle’s dream of a Premiership return on hold for at least another year.

Inverness head coach Billy Dodds plumped for a different shape to start the match compared to the first leg at home, bringing Wallace Duffy and Danny Devine straight back in after suspension alongside Logan Chalmers and Austin Samuels.

Those returns saw Cameron Harper, Aaron Doran, Lewis Hyde and Joe Hardy drop to the substitutes’ bench, where they sat beside Scott Allardice who made his on-field return from injury in the first leg.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle saw their promotion hopes dashed against St Johnstone, losing 4–0 in the second leg of the play-off final. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Of course, the match in the Highland capital ended with the momentum well and truly in Caley Thistle’s favour, and they looked the brighter of the two sides early on in Perth too.

Both teams had spells where they moved the ball sharply, but by and large it was Inverness who were getting to loose balls first – and generally looking like they wanted to win more.

On several occasions Billy Mckay looked to link up with Austin Samuels in the channels, and though the Northern Irishman provided a secure out ball for ICT’s defenders, the tactic struggled to create sights of goal.

Instead, Inverness attempts at goal were generally simple saves for Zander Clark. Robbie Deas, Samuels and Mckay each had relatively tame efforts that did not trouble him, and really the closest the visitors came to finding the net was from a St Johnstone mistake that very nearly saw Dan Cleary pass past Clark and into his own net in his desperation to prevent Samuels getting through one-on-one.

The Premiership outfit did have moments of their own, mostly through former Inverness wing back Shaun Rooney’s trickery on the right flank, but it was a quiet opening 45 minutes for Mark Ridgers as his defence did their jobs and kept the ball away from goal for the most part.

That changed inside two minutes of the restart, though, as St Johnstone took the lead.

Ridgers made a good save to first deny Melker Hallberg heading into the net, but he could do nothing to prevent Stevie May – just on the pitch as a half time substitute – following it up and firing into the top corner from just a few yards out.

Things went from bad to worse quite quickly for Inverness, as St Johnstone doubled their advantage before 10 minutes had been played in the half.

Cammy Macpherson took aim from outside the box, and a deflection off Sean Welsh wrong-footed Ridgers, leaving the Caley Jags keeper stranded as the Perth Saints went 2–0 ahead.

Billy Dodds threw on Aaron Doran in the hope that he could have a similar impact to May from the bench, and he was presented with a glorious opportunity to pull one back minutes after entering the pitch.

He watched as a high ball to the left side of the box was headed back towards him, in plenty of space, in the middle, but though he had time to pick his spot he mis-hit his strike, which trickled wide of the mark.

Perhaps sensing that Inverness were still capable of hurting them, St Johnstone dropped their defensive line much deeper, getting as many men behind the ball as possible to make life difficult for the Caley Jags.

With a two-goal lead and Premiership survival at stake, they were well within their rights to try and hold on to their lead, and much to ICT’s chagrin it worked well.

As they tried to commit bodies forward in a desperate attempt to find a breakthrough, and a way to keep their promotion dream alive, St Johnstone hit them on the counter attack.

Hallberg played an inch-perfect pass just out of Deas’ reach to send Callum Hendry through on goal with acres of space to work with.

If anything, he possibly had too much time to overthink what he was about to do, but the forward showed no signs of indecision as he coolly chipped the ball over Ridgers and into the net.

That was not all, though, as there was just enough time to add insult to injury as far as the travelling Inverness fans were concerned.

St Johnstone added a fourth in stoppage time, and it was former Caley Thistle man Shaun Rooney who rounded off the rout with an exact replica of Hendry’s finish.

St Johnstone: Clark, Rooney, Cleary, Gordon, Mahon, Brown, Davidson, Hendry, Hallberg, Macpherson, Middleton (May 46).

Subs not used: Parish, O’Halloran, Craig, Sang, Ciftci, Gilmour.

Caley Thistle: Ridgers, Duffy, Welsh (Allardice 81), Deas, Devine (Hardy 81), Carson (Harper 74), Mckay, Broadfoot, Chalmers (Doran 65), McAlear, Samuels.

Subs not used: MacKay, Hyde.

Referee: Nick Walsh


Yellow cards: St Johnstone – Macpherson (5); ICT – Carson (20), Devine (71).

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.


Source link