Charlie Christie – Season was missed opportunity for Caley Thistle
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Tonight’s Scottish Championship matches are not going to be the nail-biting affair that all Caley Thistle fans had hoped for after all.
Last Saturday’s defeat at Tynecastle coupled with Dunfermline’s home win over Arbroath left us sitting in fifth place but unable to catch the Fife club with only one game to go.
When the fixtures for this abbreviated season were advertised many months ago, I remember thinking that we had been dealt an incredibly difficult ‘run-in’ given that we had to visit Morton, Queen of the South and Hearts in a three-week period along with a tough home match against Dundee.
The five points we gained in those matches were by no means disastrous but have left us just short of the play-off places meaning we will line up for our fifth consecutive year in the Championship next season and that is not where we want to be.
Whilst everyone expected Hearts to win the title, I thought we had an excellent chance to make the play-offs this season and, even now, I still regard us as a better side than both Raith Rovers and Dunfermline but, after 10 games of the season we were trailing both clubs by several points and, in the end, this proved too much to claw back.
Unbelievably, given the quality in our squad, we skirted with the relegation play-offs at one stage of the season, but I never saw that as a genuine concern and, as the season ends, I see this as a missed opportunity for us.
My hopes for a Highland derby ‘shoot-out’ for a place in next season’s Premiership cannot now materialise and it will be interesting to see how the play-of games go in May. To my mind Dundee have the best chance of the three Championship sides to achieve promotion but the volume of matches they must play over a short period may prove too much.
Meanwhile the Scottish Cup final will not involve either of the ‘Old Firm’ for the first time in six years after St Johnstone’s heroic efforts at Ibrox last Sunday.
The last time neither of the Glasgow giants were present was of course in 2015 when a 21-year-old club from the Highlands created history and, whilst my preference at the outset would have been an ICT/Celtic final there is always something refreshing when two of the country’s ‘lesser’ clubs get the chance to compete in the season finale.
The quarter finals were certainly not short on drama with three of the four ties going to penalties and all four victors (Hibs, Dundee United, St Mirren and St Johnstone) will fancy their chances of lifting the famous trophy on May 22.
Having already won the League Cup St Johnstone could have a truly unforgettable season and huge credit must go to Callum Davidson and his squad. They are a terrific example of a provincial club achieving great things whilst living within their means and yet again they have built a well-balanced squad with a good blend of youth
and experience.Their geography has always given them a distinct advantage over ourselves.
But I have often regarded them as a role model for us and it is even more pleasing to see them doing so well with two former ICT players making significant contributions. Jamie McCart and Shaun Rooney have excelled since taking that short trip down the A9 and all credit to both these very popular and likeable lads!