A long road home

What we have tonight are all the components of a famous Somerset Park cup upset. A struggling SPL side (think Hibs...)? Check.? A confident Ayr side? Check. A bit of weather? Well, it's hosing it down where I am. Add to that a midweek game under the floodlights (let's hope the new ones have the same magic as the old ones) and you could forgive Inverness Caledonian Thistle for not fancying it tonight.
Now, we have been here before with Caley. A Scottish Cup replay in January 2006 shown live on Sky. Gareth Wardlaw had scored an equaliser up in Inverness but the replay did not go to plan.  I watched from a pub in Wigan as Mark McGeown was sent off after 36 minutes and Caley put two goals past Eric Phillips. Who was about 40 years old.
But circumstances are different now. Ayr go into the game buoyed by their performances this season. There is a belief in the squad that we can compete and all that is missing is the wins to prove it. Wardlaw looks to be finding his stride, McGowan has been terrorising left-backs for fun and Geggan and McKernan, despite their lack of obvious presence and years, are a hard working central midfield duo.
For Caley, gone are the experienced stalwarts like Russell Duncan, Grant Munro and Stuart Golabek - the club's heartbeat - that typified Inverness as the tough and inimitable force that stormed the Scottish leagues and gave United fans some days they would love to forget (remember when we were 3-0 up at half-time...) if only they could. After scrambling around the English lower leagues for recruitments in the summer and signing Gregory Tade, Caley haven't got going this season and lie bottom of the SPL with just one point from five games. Even Aberdeen scored against them at the weekend, while with Adam Rooney gone the Highlanders have failed to score in three out of their five games.
With such a poor start to the season, confidence is bound to be low and the cliché of Somerset Park being a difficult place to go will be ingrained to the point where it could become a self fulfilling prophecy. In Foran and Hayes, Caley have two dangerman capable of causing us big problems, but I don't see much else to be concerned about in their team. Ross Tokey comes back from suspension, but 500+ games looks to have caught up with the veteran. Butcher is expected to play backup keeper Jonathan Tuffey and the Northern Irishman has never inspired confidence in me. Remember Mark Roberts opening day goal from the half-way line against Partick three years ago? The last thing Inverness need is a jittery goalie.
The game provides Ayr with a perfect opportunity to play without the pressure of needing to pick up three points in what will inevitably be a relegation fight. There is nothing to lose and Brian Reid could well be tempted to go with youngsters Robertson, Tiffoney, Armstrong and Paterson and those lads haven't let us down yet. Inverness will face a 200 mile trip home tonight whatever the score and the famous chippy at Auchterarder could well be closed. There's every chance it could be another miserable journey back to the Highland capital.
Come back later in the week for a match review and player ratings from tonight and Saturday's 2-2 draw with Falkirk. And C'mon Ayr!

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