Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Scottish Cup: Northern Lights

Inverness v Celtic

I feel it's a waste to have written a preview of Inverness v Celtic on Sunday only to have to write another one for this evening.

So I include the full preview below.

Anything to add?

Well, I mentioned the rugby in the original preview. And oddly Scotland came close to parity without relying on the weather.

Why? Because the Scottish team over performed on their season so far and the English team under performed. For periods of the game the season was turned on its head as Scotland discovered their form and England's old weaknesses haunted their play.

A blueprint for Inverness? Possibly. At times Scotland's play made England struggle. They couldn't keep it up for the full 80 minutes though.

It was a big ask for Scotland on Sunday. They came up short. It's a big ask for Inverness tonight. I'll still back Celtic.

Inverness v Celtic - The Original Preview

The second of this afternoon's games. The weather forecast indicates a crappy day if not a game threatening day. Reports from Inverness suggest a deterioration.

But I'm no Michael Fish. An 8am pitch inspection may, or may not, reveal all.

Elsewhere in sport today Scotland travel to face England in the Six Nations. Which makes me wonder if football can be as in thrall to the weather as rugby often is.

Because the sort of day forecast in Inverness, - sleety, rainy, windy - is the kind of day that often grants Scotland parity with England.

Will Terry Butcher be saying a few prayers to the weather gods this morning?

Rain or shine it's a daunting task for an Inverness side who have stuttered of late facing a treble tilting Celtic team.

The home side reached the quarter finals with a functional win over Elgin and a demolition of Morton.

Celtic's campaign began with a 2-0 win at Berwick back in January and continued with two little mentioned games against Rangers.

This is the fourth clash of the season between the two. Celtic have won twice, 1-0 back in August in the SPL and a 6-0 win in the Co-operative Insurance Cup.

At Celtic Park in November Inverness charged back from 2-0 down with twenty minutes left to clinch a 2-2 draw.

At the time the result pointed to the potential of a resurgent Inverness and the brittleness at the heart of Neil Lennon's Celtic.

As things have turned out it seems that was something of a red herring.

But cup shocks, as these teams both know, can happen. And Terry Butcher has been keen to stress that his side will have nothing to lose today.

They will, as they say, be free to have a go.

The problem with "having a go" is that it can often lead to you getting walloped. Especially against a Celtic team carrying a rather potent attacking threat.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact the absence of Neil Lennon from the touchline has.

My instinct is to say it will have none. But each manager is different and Lennon's presence in the technical area is a hyper, vocal one. It seems hard to imagine that his players don't know he is there and respond to him in games.

In recent weeks Motherwell have taught us a couple of things about these teams.

Celtic aren't invincible and Inverness haven't completely lost the promise they showed earlier in the season.

Still, hard to see past a Celtic win for me. Despite being Lennon-less, despite the weather, despite what I would expect to be a passionate Inverness performance.

An away win for Celtic at the start of a big week.

Aberdeen v St Mirren

Some Aberdeen fans seemed a tad annoyed by Saturday's display.

Rare dissent in what I take to be a rather benign acceptance of the project Craig Brown is embarking on.

I'm sure St Mirren fans have more reason to be annoyed. Take the lead, weather the storm and then, at the very death, concede the equaliser.

Have St Mirren blown their chance?

I'm a Hibs fan. I've learnt the hard way to accept the only luck you get in the Scottish Cup is bad luck.

But.

Aberdeen labour against Dunfermline in the last round and happily accept a last minute winner courtesy of an own goal.

Aberdeen huff and puff against St Mirren on Saturday and happily accept a last minute equaliser from Rory McArdle.

Eleven years ago Aberdeen drew 1-1 with St Mirren before winning a replay 2-0 and eventually progressing to the final.

I don't believe in much. But I've got a feeling the fates are backing Aberdeen to at least get to the semi final this year.

And, if I was a betting man, I'd back them to win this one 2-0.