The Year in Review: 2005(2)

Last updated : 31 December 2005 By Firparkcorner

It is fair to say that the disappointment of the cup final will never completely heal but the club had a chance for some redemption when Rangers came to Fir Park a fortnight later.

Craigan from the East Stand
We were sixth by a few points but with tough fixtures ahead, including contests with fellow mid-table competitors ICT and Killie, every point would be vital. Naturally enough though, Rangers came to Fir Park and thrashed us yet again. There is no rational explanation. Obviously they have good players and we struggle to deal with the likes of Prso and Novo but everyone else deals with them. It’s one of the worst Rangers teams in history we were up against, yet we could only put up the feeblest resistance. Gerry Britton failed to score but two late goals (a penalty and a deflection) gave the scoreline a much more favourable reflection (2-3). It also kept our vital goal difference advantage over our rivals intact.

The end of season 2004/5

The next match was one of the best of the season, a sensational 3-1 win at Pittodrie. Jim Hamilton finally opened his account for the club with a stunning long shot and McDonald scored a peach of a solo effort to secure the points.
Kilmarnock and ICT were playing each other at Rugby Park and their share of the points confirmed Killie would be finishing the season in the lower half. This meant our last pre-split game would now be a friendly for Kilmarnock – a great piece of fortune given that they were another side who had a sign over us. The top six could now be secured by picking up a point from either ICT away or the Killie home game. Inverness had to win both their remaining games, hope Killie beat us, and over turn a goal difference deficit of six.

The mid-week game between us and ICT was a disappointing affair. We went into the game knowing a single goal defeat was almost certainly good enough and that’s what we got. But after 25 minutes we had lost McBride to a long term injury, our ‘keeper to a red card and we were a goal down. ICT needed to go on and score a few but they were unsure of how to proceed and we actually looked better with a man missing. Indeed, Clarkson missed a great late chance to steal a point. So, it would all come down to the last pre-split match. For
Inverness to catch us, they needed a gain of three points and five goals (or four goals if they score more than five themselves).

There remained the possibility of a play off to decide the final top six spot – an occurrence which needed a 4-2 win for Inverness while Killie had to win 2-0 at Fir Park.

Typically we made a nervous start and the visitors took the lead.
Inverness got off to a flyer against soon to be doomed Dundee and by the middle of the second half the impossible was in danger of becoming a reality. Despite having been in the top six all season, with 20 minutes left we were one goal (for Killie or ICT) away from missing out. Goodness knows how it would feel to be in the driving seat all season only to lose it all in the dying minutes…In the event, we needn’t have worried. A goal for Dundee eased the nerves and then another immediately after all but wrapped it up for us. We secured a late point to make the northern events academic when a long throw from Craigan was palmed into his own net by Alan Combe. Craigan obviously couldn’t be credited with the goal but his huge throw – off a run up which started inside the East Stand – was a significant assist.

So, we had made it into the top half for a second season. How would we fair amongst the ‘elite’ of Scottish football this time? A tired performance allowed Aberdeen to take the points from
Fir Park in the first match but a 0-0 at Tynecastle ensured we would not go pointless. Foran missed a penalty which at the time seemed inconsequential but would later hurt us. We chucked away more points in the next contest, this time Hibs at home. 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go and we had to settle for a point after an injury time leveller. Possibly an omen of things to come for next season! Rangers gave us yet another gubbing (4-1) to make the aggregate scores between the sides a remarkable 18-5. And that combined score flattered us more than them.

The season would end in dramatic fashion. Celtic were at Fir Park for the final match and with the title a near certainty their fans crammed into the ground. John Boyle agreed (reluctantly) to the fans wishes to keep the Cooper for home support but in reality this end was a 50-50 mix. Many feared of trouble in or out of the ground, remembering the scenes from a couple of years earlier when Celtic lost a late title at Rugby Park. This time though, it almost all passed off peacefully; it’s hard to start bother when you’re in shock.

Celtic knew that a win would secure the title and a first half strike from Sutton put them in the driving seat. Novo scored early in the second half at Easter Road to keep Rangers in with a chance but as Celtic turned the screw on us the title looked to be heading for Parkhead – if only after a huge party and presentation at
Fir Park, a thought as appealing as having your skin removed with a cheese grater.

However, with 15 minutes to go Celtic had missed all their chances and had resolved instead to defend. It was amazing to see them fall back deeper and deeper – much like we do now! – and make little attempt to keep possession.

Then with moments left, McDonald took a mis-hit shot on his chest and hooked the ball high into the net. Douglas had no chance and Celtic’s title certainty was collapsing in front of them. Including injury time there were still some minutes left to salvage the situation but having geared up for defence they were in no position to strike back. We broke down the right, McDonald ignored Britton in the middle and instead looped a deflected shot over Douglas and into the net. The ‘Well fans were delirious and the Celtic fans left in droves, many sneaking out from the ‘Well sections.

We were to finish sixth again but considering we not only reached a cup final but increased our finishing points tally to 48 it was a clear improvement. If only we hadn’t thrown away the late points against Hibs and stuck away the penalty against Hearts we would have been fifth – but it is always easy to go back over these things. We finished with another wonderful top half finish and another superb up and down season gave the fans many great memories and a very enjoyable summer to come!

Part 1 of the 2005 review
Part 3 of the 2005 review

The Year in Review: 2004

The Year in Review: 2003
The Year in Review: 2002

The Year in Review: 2001