Frus­trat­ing High­land derby no clas­sic

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT - By Alasdair Fraser

THEY like these oc­ca­sions raw and pas­sion­ate in the High­lands and this 54th derby held noth­ing if not the feral qual­i­ties, com­mit­ment and de­sire that have char­ac­terised the fix­ture down the years.

Sadly for two sets of ul­ti­mately frus­trated sup­port­ers, there were only oc­ca­sional glimpses of qual­ity to match it. County, still four points above their great foes, must have sent the more buoy­ant set of fans home­ward af­ter Alex Schalk’s late equaliser wiped out Greg Tansey’s early sec­ond-half strike.

In­ver­ness clam­bered off bot­tom spot as a re­sult of the point, but these re­main per­ilous times for both north­ern ri­vals.

Never a clas­sic, this match still pulsed with the im­por­tance of it all, the mood set by home man­ager Richie Fo­ran’s pre-match call for a bit of added venom and bite. Greg Tansey’s opener looked set to give In­ver­ness a sec­ond league win of 2017, be­fore Schalk’s re­ply punc­tured the glee of the home crowd. Fo­ran, though, re­mained up­beat.

“I tried to get more pas­sion out of the play­ers and I got that – more com­mit­ment, more press­ing, more en­ergy,” the Ir­ish­man said. “If we keep that never-say-die at­ti­tude and to­geth­er­ness, keep work­ing for each other, those wins will come.”

Af­ter a fairly lame show­ing from both sides be­fore the break, the hosts had taken a firm con­trol of the game for long spell in the sec­ond half. Ross Draper had quickly put his mark on the mid­field area, an­swer­ing home man­ager Fo­ran’s call for “a lit­tle bit of nas­ti­ness” with a cou­ple of thump­ing chal­lenges. The Ding­wall side suf­fered an early scare when, af­ter only five min­utes, Iain Vig­urs’ dip­ping strike clipped the top of Aaron McCarey’s bar.

County re­sponded, nine min­utes be­fore the break, with their best move of the half. Liam Boyce strung the ball wide to Ja­son Nai­smith on the right. The for­mer St Mir­ren wing back’s low, hard cross veered dan­ger­ously across the six­yard box and only just evaded the reach of Dutch striker Alex Schalk.

Penalty claims from County ranks af­ter 40 min­utes came to noth­ing af­ter David Raven clashed with Schalk in­side the area.

Just three min­utes into the sec­ond half, the hosts were ahead. Christo­pher Routis was care­less with a com­pletely mis-hit clear­ance in his own penalty area. Billy Mackay linked with Liam Pol­worth linked be­fore the lat­ter’s lay-back drew a trade­mark thun­der­bolt strike from Greg Tansey.

The 20-yard ef­fort de­flected off County de­fender Mar­cus Fraser to wrong-foot keeper McCarey on its way into the net. Tansey then saw a rasp­ing strike from the tight an­gle tipped over the bar by Mc- Carey, while County passed up a glo­ri­ous chance just be­fore the hour mark. Nai­smith’s cross from the right picked out Craig Cur­ran free at the back post, but the Liver­pudlian striker made the poor­est of con­tacts with the goal gap­ing.

It told a story that County’s first at­tempt on tar­get came af­ter 81 min­utes as sub­sti­tute Jim O’Brien drew a fine save from Owain Fon Wil­liams. But to the amaze­ment of many, never-say-die County lev­elled with four min­utes left.

A Kenny van der Weg throwin from the left was flicked on by sub Ryan Dow. Schalk, con­trol­ling neatly with back to goal, evaded a chal­lenge and swiv­elled to strike the net bril­liantly from eight yards.

“I think we de­served our point,” County man­ager Jim McIn­tyre said. “We felt it was a def­i­nite penalty kick on Alex Schalk from the cor­ner kick. It was dis­ap­point­ing we never got that.”

Ross County’s Alex Schalk cel­e­brates with Ryan Dow

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