Web reporter Mark Gillespie gives us his take on Saturday’s game
Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
Saturday 6th May 2017 at 1215pm.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 Hamilton Academical 1
After a disappointing result in the Highlands, we remain deadlocked with Motherwell in a battle to avoid the play-off spot. We gave ourselves a lot to do after falling two goals behind before the break, but an improved second half performance proved just a little too late. A big call went against us which might just have turned the game, when Ali Crawford appeared to have been fouled inside the penalty area by the Caley keeper. Post-match, Martin Canning was left to reflect on what might have been.
“The first half wasn’t good enough. We didn’t win enough first or second balls, and gave away sloppy goals. The goals we conceded are again mistakes, the same as against Kilmarnock last week. Then it was from a corner into the box and a long throw in, and this week it’s a free kick into the box and a cross where we give away a stupid penalty. You give yourself a mountain to climb.”
“At half time, I just asked for us to go out and win the second half. I thought we were miles better, albeit Inverness were sitting in to protect their lead. But we played well, created opportunities and should have had a penalty. I don’t know how it wasn’t given.”
“The timing of it was crucial, as I thought it came at a time where we were on top of the game early in the second half. It’s another decision that’s gone against us. I don’t know how many times it has happened this season or last season. I will always defend referees, they have a difficult job, but this can’t keep happening. These are big mistakes in big games.”
“We have three games in a huge week now that we need to go and get results in. I’m no more worried than any other team. I’d still rather be us than Inverness at this point in time. We just need to go and do our job now and win games.”
Martin Canning made two changes to the side which lost to Kilmarnock last week. Darian MacKinnon and Ioannis Skondras returned from suspension, with Ali Crawford and Blair Adams on the bench.
Opposite number Richie Foran made sweeping changes to his side from their loss in the Highland derby. Garry Warren and Ross Draper replaced Kevin McNaughton and Jamie McCart in defence, with Brad McKay coming in in midfield for Ian Vigurs. Up front Foran started with Henri Arnier in place of Billy King, with the suspended Liam Polworth replacing Billy McKay.
The hosts knew this was a must win and certainly began as if their league survival depended on it. They dominated much of the opening half, with the only slender ray of hope for Accies being just two down at the break.
Straight from the off, Caley were finding a lot of space and causing problems for the Accies defence, with Arnier finding a yard and firing wide from the edge of the box on five minutes. They got the breakthrough four minutes later, after winning a free kick out on the left. Greg Tansey’s in swinging delivery caught the Accies defence napping and Brad McKay nipped in ahead of Scott McMann at the back post to nod past Matthews.
Caley went on to carve out a series of further chances as they continued to throw players forward. A dangerous Mulraney run and cross went begging a minute after the goal as Fisher headed well over.
There was a narrow escape on 14 minutes, with Bingham dispossessed in his own half by Draper, putting Billy McKay clean through on Matthews, But the Accies keeper was quick off his line to rush out and block.
Caley were really dominating proceedings with Fisher somehow heading a Matthews parry out wide of goal on 23 minutes. A minute later and Billy McKay had another golden chance, with space and time in the box but couldn’t find the target. Accies were clinging on. Just.
Caley’s second came frustratingly after a period when Hamilton had begun to string some passes together, Darian MacKinnon fired just wide of Esson’s left hand post on the half hour. They had a mountain to climb when they conceded a penalty on 35 minutes.
After Jake Mulraney drew the foul from Skondras down the left, Tansey swung in another set piece. Donati was the far post culprit this time, manhandling Draper in the box, giving Andrew Dallas an easy decision. Tansey stepped up to send Matthews in the wrong direction.
It was crucial to regroup now and hang on until half time, and they attempted to muster a response. A MacKinnon effort sailed over the bar from the edge of the box on 42 minutes as they tried to gain a foothold in the game.
They made two substitutions at the break, with Ali Crawford and Danny Redmond replacing Donati and Bingham, and looked a different side as the half began. A driving Docherty run and shot down the right edge of the box went begging on 51 minutes, with Imrie getting a sight of goal a minute later, when he fired just over.
Then came the game’s moment of controversy. Ali Crawford chased a long ball into the box, which looked to be heading out of play, only for Esson to dive in at his feet to bring him down without getting the ball. Unfortunately for Accies, the referee waved away appeals for a penalty at a vital time in the match.
With the hosts sitting deeper to protect their lead, Hamilton were seeing a lot of the ball and looking sharper, but weren’t able to seriously trouble Esson. Instead Caley looked to kill things off on the counter, with Arnier flashing an effort over on 72 minutes and Boden clipping over on 81 minutes, when clean through on goal.
Accies first attempt on target arrived two minutes before time, as Skondras got over a half volley from the edge of the area, with Esson down low to his right to save. And in the dying moments of injury time a goal was pulled back as Danny Redmond found space in the Caley box to sweep an Imrie pass into Esson’s right corner.
It all came a little too late to salvage anything, although goal difference may still be crucial. Accies will now have to dust themselves down, for what looks likely to be one massive Lanarkshire derby next weekend.
Inverness CT: Esson, Raven, Laing, Warren, Mulraney (King 90+2), Draper, Tansey, Brad McKay (McNaughton 90 +1), Anier, Fisher (Boden 68), Billy McKay. Subs Unused: McCart, Horner, Cole, Hoban.
Goals: Brad McKay 9, Tansey 35 pen.
Cautions: Draper, Billy McKay, Tansy, Boden.
Accies: Matthews, Skondras, Sarris, Devlin (c), McMann, Docherty (Brophy 81), MacKinnon, Imrie, Donati (Crawford 45), D’Acol, Bingham (Redmond 45). Subs Unused: Gillespie, Woods, Templeton, Adams.
Goal: Redmond 90+3.
Referee: Andrew Dallas Assistants: Frankie Connor & Graeme Stewart Fourth Official: David Munro.