What to expect this week was anyone's guess. Would ICT perform well now that Brewster was gone? Would the players be distracted by the managerial names being thrown around? or would it be more of the same dross that has seen the side lose the last seven games?
In 39 minutes David Obua scored and it was a case of "here we go again" .... However, a 56th minute Pavels Mihadjuks header, his first goal for the club, reinvigorated the Caley Thistle side and they gave as good as they got. Obua scored again in 59 minutes but once again Caley Thistle fought back, this time with Imrie scoring what commentators described as one of the best free kicks ever seen at Tynecastle a couple of minutes before the end. Unfortunately, Hearts made use of their extra man advantage and went straight up the park and grabbed the winner. A defeat it might be, but this was a defeat that felt like the players were battling hard and giving everything they could .... in contrast to the last seven games.
Caley Thistle suffered heartbreak at Tynecastle on Saturday as they went down 3-2 to Hearts, despite a valiant effort from the managerless Highlanders. After twice equalising Caley Jags slumped to an eighth straight league defeat when they were undone by a Kingston goal in the dying minutes. Despite the sickening nature of the loss, many Caley fans left Gorgie with renewed hope for the relegation fight, a result of the battling nature of the performance against a Hearts side pushing for third spot. Caretaker boss John Docherty made several changes to the ICT line up, with Richard Hastings, Filipe Morais and Andy Barrowman all dropping from the side and Thierry Gathuessi, Dougie Imrie and Garry Wood coming in. Ross Tokely moved into midfield, making his first start in the middle of the park since a 1-0 home defeat by Ayr United in 2003. Cameroon international Gathuessi slotted in at right back, while Don Cowie and Dougie Imrie offered attacking support to Wood from midfield. Before kick off a minutes silence was impeccable observed minutes silence in honour of three former Hearts players, including Alfie Conn. The match began slowly with Caley Thistle settling into their reshaped formation. There were few chances and the main talking point was the withdrawal of Thierry Gathuessi, who pulled up chasing a ball down the right flank after 20 minutes and was replaced by David Proctor, who looked more comfortable at full back than during his recent sojourn in the centre. Andy Driver has been the subject of transfer speculation this window and any watching scouts would have been impressed with the young Englishman’s delivery midway through the first half. Driver whipped a dangerous ball across goal, which only a desperate interception from Grant Munro kept from reaching Christian Nade. Ryan Esson had to look lively to prevent an own goal. A few minutes later Caley were presented with a golden opportunity to open the scoring. A free kick on the left hand side of the Hearts penalty box was delivered perfectly into the area by Don Cowie but the incoming Dougie Imrie directed his header wide of the post. Imrie, who had a hopeful penalty appeal turned down early in the game, should have done better with the chance and the former Clyde man will be disappointed that his effort failed to hit the target. Shortly afterwards another great chance was spurned by Caley Thistle. A long ball up the park from Grant Munro was kept in play by Don Cowie, who fed Imrie. Imrie managed to find Ian Vigurs who in turn slotted a ball through for Garry Wood. The ex-Elgin City forward couldn’t set himself correctly and his backheeled effort flew wide of the post. Caley Thistle were looking more confident at this point than had been the case in recent matches. However, none of the chances were taken and the home side meted out punishment by seizing the lead in the 39th minute. Andy Driver sent in a cross to the box and Ugandan midfielder David Obua beat Ryan Esson in the air to nod the ball into the net. The Caley Thistle players protested vehemently to the referee that Obua had fouled Esson but their incantations fell on deaf ears. With the benefit of television replays we can see that Esson had not caught the ball and the goal was lawful. The most pertinent point was that once again defensive failures cost the side dear: Proctor, should have prevented the cross being delivered and McBain failed to track Obua’s run. As it is, the home side went into the interval with a 1-0 advantage. There were no changes to either side’s line up at half-time but Inverness emerged from the dressing rooms with a clear sense of purpose and drive. The midfield, including an impressive Ross Tokely, managed to exercise a degree of control over the game and the livewire pair of Cowie and Imrie stepped up in the second half to give excellent performances. It was Imrie who won a free kick wide on the left just before the hour mark and Cowie who’s pinpoint delivery was bulleted into the net by Latvian centre-half Pavels Mihadjuks. If the recent arrival was concerned that the departure of Craig Brewster could endanger his future at the club he didn’t show it – this was a superb goal, an unstoppable arrowed header past McDonald. The side took a great fillip from equalising and Ross Tokely spurned a great chance to give the Highlanders the lead when Cowie and Imrie’s well worked short corner was cut back to him. Sadly for the club stalwart his effort was sliced over the bar. The sense of fight and spirit from the red and blue XI was palpable and the visiting support added their collective voice to urge the side on. With just over twenty minutes to go Hearts won a penalty in what was a turning point in the match. Driver cut inside from the right and went down under pressure from Roy McBain. Steve Conroy pointed to the spot, to the rage of the visitors. With the benefit of television replays it’s clear that Driver went down easily after being pressured on the ball but McBain’s complaints earned him a yellow card. Michael Stewart took the spot kick, not before Dougie Imrie had employed some gamesmanship by knocking the ball off the spot, but his driven effort was brilliantly stopped by Ryan Esson, who stretched down to his right to push the ball past the post. This was Esson’s second penalty save of the season, after another excellent save against Hibs in November. The joy of this occasion was tempered by the sending off of Roy McBain, who had gestured at the linesman in the aftermath of the penalty save. Conroy took a dim view to this and McBain received his marching orders, necessitating a reshuffle with Grant Munro shifting to left-back. Less than ten minutes later Munro’s lack of pace was exposed as Driver strode past him before sending a cross to the far post, where David Obua outmuscled David Proctor to power home a header. From a Caley Thistle perspective this goal again was preventable but the absence of a recognised left back was a major factor. The match seemed to be heading towards a 2-1 home win when the final act in a dramatic second half unfolded in the dying seconds. Obua clumsily took down Dougie Imrie 35 yards from goal. The ex Junior wide man dusted himself off before crashing in a glorious free kick that thundered off the crossbar and into the net. The equaliser was the cue for wild celebrations among the players and travelling support, with all and sundry clearly believing a point had been earned. However, straight from the restart Andy Driver was played in and his cut back was tapped home by Larry Kingston. The late blow sucked the life out of the Caley players, who must have wondered what they have to do to earn a point at the moment. As the fans filtered out of the ground there was a sense of disbelief among the faithful but also a feeling that the fighting spirit of old seemed to have returned to the ICT side. The togetherness of the squad, the good passing and incisive movement all were drastic improvements on previous performances and even the new formation, with Ross Tokely showing he can add some physical presence to the midfield worked well. If the qualities displayed by the side in this match can be carried forward, and the lingering weaknesses eliminated, then this Caley Thistle side is well capable of saving itself from relegation.
Match report written by tm4tj