In a tremendous match, with great effort from both sides, we drew 3-3 with Inverness CT at Caledonian Stadium on Tuesday evening, in our penultimate fixture of the season.
It was our first draw in 19 matches (13 wins 6 defeats) and, in Martin Canning’s view, ICT were the strongest individual side that we had faced this season, whereas we had a 15 year old in goal and three 16 year olds starting. Taking out the Manager, the average age of our other 10 players was exactly 17.
Missing skipper Shaun Want, who underwent a knee operation on Wednesday morning, it was 17 year old Ronan Hughes skippering the side against an ICT team who included Brill in goal, Roberts, Wedderburn and the prolific Ali Sutherland up front.
The game was played on a sodden pitch, as we had had sleet, snow and heavy rain en route, and the assistant referees had to run the ‘opposite diagonal’ as the normal runs were very wet and slippy. There was plenty surface water on the pitch, but we were good to go.
The first chance was to ICT with just 14 seconds on the clock but MacRae fired inches wide. The home side did take the lead in the 6th minute. A quick break down the left was sent over to the right and when the cross came back in Sutherland fired home from five yards. Soon after McCracken denied Roberts, then we forced the pace with shots from Reilly, Cunningham, Tierney and Ferguson coming in amongst a succession of Accies corners. In the 16th minute we were awarded a penalty when Tierney was pushed, but Brill dived to his right to save Tierney’s spot kick (see picture on acciesfc twitter).
But the equaliser came a few minutes later when Ryan Tierney made amends in the 20th minute by firing home Ben Reilly’s cross, 1-1. Marc Kelly then twice came close, as did Ross Cunningham, before ICT took the lead in the 28th minute when Canning and Sutherland battled for the ball and the striker knocked it off our Manager’s foot and into the net. Four minutes later it was 3-1 when Roberts drilled home a low 25 yard drive beyond the wrong footed McCracken. Tierney and Boyd continued to cause problems, with a succession of corners in our favour, and this paid off in the 39th minute when Brill palmed out Boyd’s corner only as far as Martin Canning who fired high into the net for his 3rd goal of the season in the u20s. That reduced the deficit to 3-2. At that stage it very much looked like a 6-4 or 7-5 was on the cards, such was the tempo of the game and the attacks of both sides.
Tierney and Cunningham continued to cause problems, as ICT brought on subs to try and pull away, but the trickery of Boyd and the general good all round team play meant ICT could never relax and frequently found themselves under pressure from our passing and probing. Roberts twice came close for Caley, while O’Halloran at the back for us was having a great game beside the Manager. In the 77th minute we levelled at 3-3 when Ferguson was flattened in the box for a certain penalty and possible red card, but the referee gave advanatge and the ball fell to Steven Boyd who drilled home for a more than deserved equaliser. In the closing stages both sides sought the winner. Canning twice cleared before Ferguson fired over for us. McCracken pulled off another good save in stoppage time but the game finished 3-3 in what both sides and the officials agreed was a very good game to watch.
Accies – McCracken (15), Reilly (18), Quitongo (16), O’Halloran (16), Canning (34), Hughes (c) (17), Cunningham (17), Ferguson (16), Tierney (18), S Boyd (19), Kelly (18). Unused subs Marshall (18), Wilson (14), J Boyd (16), Sheridan (15), Henry (16)
Referee – Graham Fraser. Att: 23
The result keeps us 2nd in the table, and we are confirmed as runners-up to Celtic already. Next week it’s our final fixture, Tuesday 3rd May, away to Dundee Un ited, 6pm at Tannadice Park.