Oct 18 2011 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
St Johnstone 2 ICT 0
A QUICK overhead hand clap to acknowledge the Derek McInnes chant and an equally rapid move for the tunnel won’t be ranked among the more memorable farewell bows.
But nearly four years on from the scepticism which greeted his appointment as successor to a Burnley-bound Owen Coyle, McInnes deserves to be ranked among the most influential mangers in the history of St Johnstone Football Club if this does prove to have been his swansong.
Focused rather than flamboyant, gritty rather than glib, McInnes, with his judgement generously backed by the board, has advanced the club across all fronts.
A bundle of cup semi-final appearances, mixing pride and disappointment in equal measure, a First Division title win and a long-awaited return to the SPL, and now a first quarter brimming with goals and optimism isn’t a bad legacy if the weekend victory over Inverness was his final contribution.
And, behind the scenes, the man casually dismissed by many fans as the “cheap option” when Geoff Brown promoted from within, has built on an aura of professionalism instilled by Coyle, demanding improved training facilities, harnessing contemporary coaching technology and enhancing the profile and pulling power of a football club as it established itself in the top flight.
Jody Morris, Michael Duberry and now eight-goal Francisco Sandaza are just some of the big hitters somehow persuaded by McInnes that McDiarmid Park should be the next staging post in their careers.
No slick, snake oil salesman, his methodically researched recruitment policy recalls the Paul Sturrock era.
Luggy’s team subsequently matured under the stewardship of Sandy Clark, but the successor to McInnes may yet find the creator of this squad returning to plunder jewels in the Perth crown.
With the chairman confirming pre-match that his manager was off to Bristol City for an interview, the manager was always going to be the story.
The game itself was overshadowed by the suspicion that it would be the last time McInnes and trusted lieutenant Tony Docherty would be occupying the home dug-out.
The fact that just shy of 3000 Perth customers parted with their hard-earned cash to see Son-form aints keep pace with Hearts and close in on third placed Celtic with a remarkable first quarter 18-point tally merely confirms why Brown can’t stand in the way of ambitious managers targeted from the south.
The firepower missing last season is now being provided by a presumably short-lived partnership of Cillian Sheridan and Fran Sandaza. It unlocked the Caley Jags in the 12th minute to pave the way to a comfortable and no-fuss win.
The on-loan Irishman limped off but not before he had linked with and dinked in the Spaniard to ram home a close range shot after latching onto a penalty box rebound. Sandaza has already banked more goals than last term’s top scorer at the club.
Like Sheridan, he won’t be around long enough to break any more records, but for now Perth fans should just savour the goals. The partnership has bagged 12 of the 18 goals.
Sixty seconds after the opener, exquisite control and a bamboozling spin onto Liam Craig’s cross was thwarted by the keeper at close quarters.
Chris Millar was cautioned for blocking Tade, the equivalent of a Smart car ramming a Humvee, and Craig created more paperwork for going through on Tansey.
Saints should have doubled-up in stoppage time when Marcus Haber was played in by Millar only to clip the post and Craig’s attempt to finish was denied by a last-ditch Piermayr block.
By all accounts, Jags boss Terry Butcher’s ferocious interval team talk reverberated all the way up the A9 to Inverness, but it made no difference.
Millar and Mackay combined and Esson dived to clutch the defender’s strike, Sandaza scooped a shot over the bar and Kevin Moon stretched only to sky his close range touch on Craig’s astutely delivered cross.
But any concerns that missed chances would mar the occasion vanished in the 65th minute when Haber charged into the box and laid off a pass for Morris to cross from the right.
The keeper half-cleared from the head of Sandaza but Mackay snaked out his left peg to net a controlled shot for his second of the season.
Keeper Peter Enckelman was a virtual observer but did produce a stunning touch to divert a 70th minute Sutherland 20-yarder onto the top of the crossbar to dispense with the notion of an unlikely Inverness comeback.
SAINTS: Enckelman, Mackay, C. Davidson, Wright, Anderson, Morris, Moon (M. Davidson 64), Millar, Craig, Sandaza (Gibson 81) and Sheridan (Haber 20). Subs not used: Mannus, Durnan, Caddis and May.
INVERNESS: Esson, Piermayr, Tokely, Tansey, Foran, A. Shinnie (McKay 74), Ross (Chippendale 59), Proctor, Tade (Sutherland 56), G. Shinnie and Davis. Subs not used: Tuffey, Cox, Gillet and Meekings.
Referee: Craig Thomson.