Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
Saturday 12th March 2016.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0 Hamilton Academical 1
Accies went level on points with Inverness and five clear of Killie after a narrow 1-0 win in the Highland capital, after Carlton Morris calmly struck past Owain Fon Williams in the Thistle goal. The on loan Norwich striker said afterwards, “It’s always good to get a goal but if you come away with nothing, it’s all in vain sometimes, so it’s the best of both worlds to get the goal and take the three points home.”
The match wasn’t the greatest for the neutral, with the first half being a bit rough on the eyes. We had the best of the open play, but Inverness had the best of the chances and created a few clear cut opportunities to take the lead. Hamilton started the second half in the same vein, and their effort finally paid off when Morris struck home from a nice Gillespie pass.
In the final stages of the match, Inverness threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Hamilton goal, but Accies stood strong and notched another clean sheet as well as a very welcome three points. Martin Canning made two changes to the midfield that faced Motherwell at NDP, with Grant Gillespie coming in for the unwell Ali Crawford, and Greg Docherty in for Darren Lyon.
The conditions at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium were blustery, but neither side was able to benefit as the wind seemed to swirl around the ground. Both sides failed to impress in the early stages, with that maybe down to the importance of the occasion rather than the weather. Accies seemed to cope better and eventually crafted an opportunity.
Gramoz Kurtaj received the ball a couple of yards inside the Thistle penalty area, he found himself crowded out and instead laid back for Darian MacKinnon. The ball rolled perfectly for MacKinnon to strike from 20 yards, he kept his shot on target and the ball struck a Caley defender then looked to ricochet off another’s hand. The referee waved away the Hamilton appeals.
Moments later, Accies found themselves in trouble when a mistake in defence was pounced on by Greg Tansey. He looked across and saw Polworth matching his run, sent the ball right to his feet and Polworth stroked the ball inches high of the Hamilton goal. Jordan Roberts then had a decent effort sail over the cross bar from wide on the left hand side of the penalty area.
Accies created a half chance when Lucas Tagliapietra sent the ball deep, Carlton Morris nodded on for Kurtaj, who sent the ball wide of the right hand upright from 20 yards out. From a corner kick at the other end, a Danny Devine drive was deflected away from goal by the foot of Tagliapietra. Accies finished the half strongly, an Imrie free kick from out on the touch line was headed wide of the back post by Mikey Devlin, then Imrie sent a 30 yard strike sailing over the Thistle cross bar.
The second half started with another chance for the home side, Williams sent a cross into the penalty area for an unmarked Vigurs on the edge of the six yard box, but fortunately his glancing header went sent well wide. Greg Docherty countered with a good run and ball from the right hand touch line, the ball found Kurtaj unmarked but his header looped over the Inverness cross bar.
Then the moment the small but hardy band of Accies fans had been hoping for, came just before the hour mark. A loose ball was touched onto Grant Gillespie from Dougie Imrie, he sent wide to Carlton Morris who found himself with space on the right. He had just enough time to take a touch then shot across goal, and beyond the reach of Fon Williams and in at the back post.
The match then entered the doldrums as both sides re assessed their aims, this was broken when Danny Redmond came on for Kurtaj, and sent a 20 yard shot wide of Thistle post. Hamilton then had a chance to go two in front when Dougie Imrie made a charging run from his own penalty area. He sent the ball wide and into space for Greg Docherty, his 12 yard strike was accurate, but the Thistle keeper managed to pull off a great last gasp save to keep his side in touch.
This seemed to be the final straw for the Inverness men as they began to chase the game and tighten the screw on the Hamilton defence. Their first test came when an up and under was sent right into the Accies six yard box, McGovern punched clear as Draper backed into him, Wedderburn struck on goal from three yards, fortunately Darren Lyon cleared from in front of the Hamilton goal line.
Soon after, a speculative ball was played high into the Hamilton penalty area for Vigurs to chase, Ziggy Gordon headed clear, but only as far as Liam Hughes on the eighteen yard line, who volleyed a foot wide of the target. Tansey then crossed for Horner and Redmond headed clear over the bar. The corner was delivered to the back post, and Devine headed over from four yards.
A delighted Martin Canning said after his sides crucial 1-0 victory “It’s never an easy place to come to and win, that’s twice we’ve come here this season and taken three points each time, so for us the results are the most important thing at this time of year. I thought our performance in the first hour was excellent, but I must admit that in the last 25-30 minutes, they put us under a lot of pressure. But from our point of view, the points are the most important thing and I’m delighted that that were taking them home.”
“I’ve said all along that I don’t really worry about what’s going on elsewhere, we’ve just got to take care of our own job, I know that it’s a cliché and you’ll be sick of hearing it from every manager probably. But for us, it really is about making sure that we can focus on us and can try and win enough games to keep us in the league.”
“We talked through the week on Monday after the Motherwell game about how important the first goal can be in games. It’s strange in that it can give you that little bit extra belief to hang in there and dig in, the other side gets a bit more anxious and their end starts slashing at things and it can be huge in a game. Again we talked and went through the stats and I think that 75% of the time when we score first we win, and 10% of the times in which we don’t score first we win, so it can make a huge difference.
“It was similar to last week against Motherwell, if you don’t get the goal, you end up slashing at chances and you don’t have the same composure. Whereas when you’re 1-0 up like we were, it was Inverness that were slashing at the chances and everyone starts to force things more, and it ends up dictating the game. So from our point of view it was a fantastic goal from Carlton with a great finish across the keeper, and like I said I’m just delighted that we could take the three points.”
Hamilton goal hero Carlton Morris said after hearing the other Premiership results “That is a bit of a boost but as we showed out there, we don’t need much of a boost as we’re together on the pitch and together in the changing room and together away from the club. We’re a close knit team and I think we can take the battle to the other teams.”
Speaking on the lack of chances he had in front of the Inverness goal, Carlton said, “That’s the life of a striker, especially a modern day striker. You go through some games hardly touching the ball then if you get that one chance, you’ve got to make sure that you take it, fortunately I did today and we came away with a win.”
Thistle: O Fon Williams, Draper, Roberts (Foran 65), Devine, Wedderburn, Tansey, Horner, D Williams, Polworth (Storey 72), Hughes, Vigurs. Subs Unused: Esson, R Williams, Brown, MacLennan.
Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Kurakins, Devlin, Gillespie (Lyon 69), Imrie (Boyd 86), Kurtaj (Redmond 73), Morris, MacKinnon, Docherty, Tagliapietra. Subs Unused: Martin, Diaby, D’Acol, Brophy.
Goals: Morris 58.
Cautions: McGovern, Gillespie, Imrie.
Referee: Steven McLean Assistants: Alastair Mather & Andy Milne 4th Official: Kevin Graham.