For a description of exactly what this series is about and how the idea was formed then be sure to read the open letter at the top of our opening blog. For the rest we’ll summarise: we’ve asked a blogger from every team in the Scottish top flight to recall their favourite goal from every season since 1998. On this occasion it is the turn of Lawrie Spence – of the brilliant blog site Narey’s Toe Poker – to look fondly back through the archives at the special moments watching Inverness Caley Thistle.
1998/99 – Allan McManus (og) v Livingston
I won’t lie to you – I was only 14 when this season started and my memory of it is grainy at best. And, because ICT were in the third tier, there isn’t much video footage to be found. Thankfully some chap has posted highlights of three games against Livingston from 1998/99, which includes a cup tie in Inverness which Livi won despite a delightful own goal from Allan McManus. This should have been heralded for the wonderful interchange between Mike Teasdale, Charlie Christie and Iain Stewart, culminating in Stewart’s backheel putting right-back Teasdale in on goal… but Neil Alexander (the same Neil Alexander who went on to play for Scotland) makes a great block. The ball bounces up to the onrushing McManus who, inexplicably, heads the ball into his own net. Brilliant.
LINK – http://youtu.be/sXame7ewjN4?t=49s
1999/00 – Paul Sheerin v Celtic
That wonderful, wonderful night when Super Caley went ballistic. I had a ticket for the game, but because it was moved to midweek – Celtic postponed the match at the last minute because of loose guttering! – I missed out. I had to sit a Higher Still chemistry assessment the next day, and my teacher made it quite clear that anyone who underperformed due to lack of sleep from a sojourn to Glasgow was for the chop. So I bottled it and didn’t go. I have regretted it ever since.
It was the night before my 16th birthday. My dad and sister went to the game; my mum and I instead set up the HiFi that was my present, and listened to the game on that. The BBC were only offering updates from Celtic Park, and just after half-time we heard the words “and there’s a penalty at Celtic Park”. Then on came a quite hysterical journalist who screamed “AND IT’S FOR INVERNESS!!!” For Regi Blinker had given Barry Wilson a nudge in the back, Wilson had gone over like a sack of spuds, and the ref had pointed to the spot. And, thankfully for us, Paul Sheerin never, ever, ever missed penalties.
At 3-1, that was that. With 20 minutes to go someone at the Beeb finally twigged that something big was going down at Celtic Park and they switched games; in those last 20 minutes I don’t remember hearing Celtic even create a chance. Unbelievable.
Sheerin’s celebration ended up on the front of every paper in the country, and eventually on the cover of Ian Broadfoot’s outstanding book ‘Going Ballistic’, on the first 10 years of the club’s existence. And it will be etched onto my brain forever.
LINK – http://youtu.be/vIn_MHG2F6Y?t=4m52s
2000/01 – David Bagan v Ayr United
How many 7-3 games have you ever been to? I’ve been to one, and this was it. It was such a cold December afternoon that my fingers were blue despite gloves, so I was grateful for all the opportunities to celebrate, as they kept me warm! Steve Paterson and Gordon Dalziel weren’t really fussed about the concept of ‘defending’. The score was 3-3 after 48 minutes, but Caley Thistle pulled away after that, with Dennis Wyness notching a hat trick and David Bagan managing a brace. His second was the pick of the bunch, as I recall, a beautiful chip over the keeper from the edge of the box. My only other strong memory from this match is that Davide Xausa missed a sitter to make it eight.
2001/02 – David Bagan v Hearts
I went on a day trip from uni in Edinburgh for this cup tie at Tynecastle, where a Ricardo Fuller-inspired Hearts were expected to give us a pumping. I overhead some Jambo on the bus to Gorgie confidently tell the world that “we’ll win 4-0, at least”. He must have been gobsmacked when Ross Tokely – Ross Tokely! – volleyed us in front. With Fuller negated by a combination of Stuart McCaffrey and a muddy quagmire of a pitch, Gary Wales levelled, but Dennis Wyness netted from the edge of the box to make it 2-1. Bagan didn’t even start the game, but came on at half-time for an injured Charlie Christie. Roy McBain sent him clear, but he didn’t have the pace to outrun the last defender. So Bagan stopped, waited for the defender to face him up (Dougie Donnelly on Sportscene claimed he’d “stopped to light a cigar”!)… and skinned him before firing past Antti Niemi. I jumped up and down so much that I nearly fell over the row in front.
2002/03 – Dennis Wyness v Celtic
So we went ballistic again, although this one was a proper smash-and-grab just a few days after Martin O’Neill’s Celtic won at Anfield in the UEFA Cup. Wyness slid in to convert Richie Hart’s centre just before half-time for the only goal, from what was pretty much our only attack. Every shot from the visitors either ended up in the stand behind the goal, or somehow hit Mark Brown and stayed out. One save, a Henrik Larsson shot that hit his shoulder and flew over the bar, was just pure wonderful luck. When the final whistle went, I got hugged by about a dozen people who I’d never even met before; it was that sort of night.
2003/04 – Paul Ritchie v St Johnstone
The goal that clinched promotion to the SPL for the first time. Needing to beat the Perth Saints on the final day to win the first division, we led 2-1 but the game was still in the balance. But veteran striker Ritchie, on his last appearance for the club, slammed in a near post header from a corner with 20 or so minutes to go to seal it. A rather lumbering centre forward, I’d never seen him run as quickly in open play as he did in celebration of that goal, racing to the halfway line to take the deserved adulation of all present. In the terraces that afternoon, I stood beside an elderly gentleman who remarked to me “it feels like a weight has come off everyone’s shoulders”. After that, I had no concerns about the result – my main worry was that my younger sister would invade the pitch and our parents would kill us.
LINK – http://youtu.be/PBhM-2J-QGQ?t=45s
2004/05 – Barry Wilson v Dunfermline
How fitting that our first SPL goal in Inverness (after five months at Pittodrie) came from one of the old guard. This was a lovely curled effort from the edge of the box from Barry Wilson which opened the scoring and sparked a great run of form that nearly took us into the top six. I was tempted to put Bryan Prunty’s goal against Rangers in here, for sheer comedy value, but Wilson’s strike meant too much.
LINK – http://youtu.be/NP7Eocj_xJk?t=1m5s
2005/06 – Craig Brewster v Kilmarnock
I missed large chunks of this season due to being sent to the Western Isles, Fort William and New Zealand at various times by my university, so I can’t remember too many goals. This one was special because, to the surprise of all the fans, Dennis Wyness was named on the subs bench – his loan return from Hearts having been concluded within the previous 24 hours. Wyness came on after 71 minutes, and within a minute had played in his player-manager to smash home a terrific strike from the edge of the box. And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
2006/07 – John Rankin v Rangers
This is my favourite goal ever.
Two days after Christmas 2006, Paul Le Guen’s ailing Rangers side came to the Highlands. They were a mess. Their lineup showed that the Frenchman hadn’t scouted us at all – central defenders Brahim Hemdani and Karl Svensson let Graham Bayne win every header, while Ross Tokely kicked Charlie Adam out of the game on the Gers’ left flank. Nacho Novo scored early, but from then on we were absolutely dominant, with Darren Dods levelling on half-time. Only some profligate finishing and an inspired Allan McGregor kept it at 1-1, and then, in injury time, John Rankin drove forward with the ball. From 30+ yards out, he wellied it, managing so much top spin that McGregor, about six yards off his line, was left flailing as the ball looped over his head and into the net.
I’ve never heard a noise at Caledonian Stadium like it. Everyone hugged the person next to them. The elderly chap sitting to my right got mobbed by about five of us. It was unbelievable, just unbelievable. Seven and a half years on, I’ve not felt euphoria like that watching my team since.
2007/08 – Marius Niculae v Kilmarnock
He left the club under a bit of a cloud, but I absolutely bloody loved Marius Niculae when he was at Inverness. He was just so clearly a class above everyone else. His last goal for the club was a glorious curled effort into the top corner against Kilmarnock in a comfortable late season win. Rather sweetly, he then jumped into the stand behind the goal to hug some fans who had hung up a Romania flag. A couple of months later, he was starting for his country at Euro 2008 – while still a Caley Thistle player.
2008/09 – Ian Black v Rangers
I wasn’t at this midweek away game; in fact, despite having the week off, I wrote it off as a lost cause and went to Newcastle-Man Utd instead. As that game entered its last few minutes, I suddenly received about a dozen text messages in a minute. For Caley Thistle had won at Ibrox, courtesy of Ian Black’s last minute penalty. The footage of Black taking the spot-kick is worth watching – he is coolness personified right up until the ball hits the back of net and then the enormity of the situation hits him all at once, judging by his celebrations. In the end, it wasn’t enough to stave off relegation, but I remember pretty much floating for the whole two mile walk back to my hotel in Newcastle.
2009/10 – Richie Foran v Raith Rovers
Dundee’s spectacular collapse meant that Caley Thistle would probably have won the first division anyway, but it looked like a Gregory Tade-inspired Raith had inflicted a crippling blow on the ICT challenge with six games left, coming back from 3-1 down to level the game. I was at a friend’s wedding and checked the score at about 1650, assuming 3-3 to be the final result. But, incredibly, the home side had conjured up a winner at the death. Even more incredibly, it came from a Richie Foran bicycle kick. The ball didn’t exactly rifle in, but it found the corner of David McGurn’s net and may have given the team the momentum it needed to go and win promotion.
2010/11 – Russell Duncan v Dundee Utd
This was the second game back in the SPL, and what a game! ICT won 4-0 at Tannadice and deservedly so, not least because of a virtuoso performance by Adam Rooney, who scored twice and ripped Garry Kenneth – who had received his first Scotland cap earlier that week – to shreds. The first goal was a 30 yard screamer from right-back Kevin McCann; the third came from an even less likely source. Russell Duncan received a quick throw-in and, from flipping miles out, lobbed Lukasz Zaluska with an outrageous volley. I mean, Russell Duncan?! In the away end, I didn’t celebrate. I just stood open-mouthed in shock.
2011/12 – Jonny Hayes v Dunfermline (twice)
Mention Chris Smith to Dunfermline and St. Mirren fans and they will wince. There are plenty of reasons for that, but here are two of them. Bizarrely, despite taking place 10 days and 150 miles apart, they were practically identical.
The Pars led with 10 men in the dying seconds of a Scottish Cup tie at Inverness when Smith came racing out of his box to clear a back pass… and smacked it straight off the puss of the onrushing Jonny Hayes, leaving the Irishman with a tap in to earn a replay; Hayes ran to the corner flag with his hand over his mouth, which must have made the away fans feel so much better.
In the replay, Dunfermline led again… when exactly the same thing happened to the same players. Another tap in for Hayes. Even the celebration was the same. You had to see it to believe it. No wonder Dunfermline went to pieces after that, as Caley Thistle went on to win 3-1.
2012/13 – Aaron Doran v Ross County
The first top flight Highland derby was a terrific game, with Ross Draper and Andy Shinnie firing the home side into a two goal lead, only for Iain Vigurs to score a terrific free kick to bring County back into it. As the game entered added time, it looked like ICT would see it out, but Aaron Doran made sure in some style; his half-volley from Billy Mckay’s knockdown flew in off the inside of the post with the goalkeeper absolutely nowhere. Sensational.
Of course, 18 months later, the little Irishman scored an even better goal in Dingwall…
LINK – http://youtu.be/EJmycEtQMwA?t=4m15s
2013/14 – Nick Ross v Hearts
Ever felt the whole world was against you?
ICT had to play this League Cup semi final on a Sunday lunchtime, on ‘neutral’ ground in Edinburgh, with John Beaton, a man who shouldn’t even be trusted with a pair of blunt primary school scissors, as referee. Beaton intervened after Greg Tansey opened the scoring, making sure Gary Warren got a second ridiculous yellow card to go with the one that he’d received in the first half. When Jamie Hamill then scores twice, you know it isn’t going to be your day. Josh Meekings’ injury time red card was outrageous as well (it was later rescinded), but ICT were left with nine men. In the fourth minute of added time, Ryan Stevenson even high-fived Hearts fans before taking a corner. In the fifth minute, the ball ricocheted around the penalty box like a pinball and, with goalkeeper and defenders sprawled all over the shop, somehow ended up at the feet of sub Nick Ross, with an open goal that he couldn’t miss.
My comment at the time? “Well, that’s just delayed things by half an hour”. But I didn’t reckon against Gary Locke, who decided that he still needed to play a back four against nine men. Caley Thistle won on penalties to reach the League Cup Final for the first time. The less said about that final, the better.
LINK – http://youtu.be/fjbjctH2sMo?t=4m33s
As well as checking out his excellent work on the Narey’s Toe Poker site, be sure to follow the twitter feed.