Hearts 3 Inverness CT 2: Inverness lose the plot and the points

THE gripe was that there had been more fines handed out under Craig Brewster than there had been in the previous 10 years. Given this kind of indiscipline, it is understandable why. The fact is whether you like the rules or not, if you break them, you have to accept the consequences.

In a silly few minutes Inverness lost the plot, a player and ultimately the game and while Brewster may no longer be around, Roy McBain should still expect his wages to be docked.

Having cancelled out Hearts first half advantage, equalising in the 55th minute, they then cancelled out their own hard work 14 minutes later. Under the close attentions of McBain, Andy Driver tumbled in the box and after a slight pause, referee Steve Conroy awarded the penalty. That's when it all went to hell in a handcart as far as the visitors were concerned. They were raging and while some surrounded the officials to protest, Esson kicked lumps out the penalty spot in a fit of temper. Yellow cards were flashed and the assistant referee also had to intervene as Grant Munro continue to froth.

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But when play was resumed Michael Stewart could not beat Esson, who dived to his left to turn the spot-kick away. That should have been that and it might have been had the assistant referee not spotted an off the ball incident involving McBain. One of those booked in the penalty furore, he was shown a straight red.

But afterwards there was no backtracking. "We have seen it again on TV and Roy didn't even touch (Driver]," said Russell Duncan. "I don't want to say someone dived but the referee could not have possibly seen it, he goes by the linesman and he is 20 yards away and makes the wrong decision."

From then on his team-mates were fighting their own frustrations and a losing battle. It made for a fiery end to a game that had hardly smouldered.

For all the protests demanding a change of management at Inverness, fans of the Highland club were obviously unconvinced that, in the short-term at least, life after Brewster would be any brighter. Only around 100 of them travelled south for this one.

First-team coach John Docherty took charge of the side which started the day at the foot of the SPL, and he rejigged the personnel, adopting a 4-1-4-1 formation with Ross Tokely utilised in the holding role between defence and midfield and Garry Wood endeavouring to work the Hearts rearguard on his own up front. It was a thankless task because, while Hearts weren't brimming with ideas of their own, they were not gifting too much either.

There were openings, though, Inverness just didn't have the wherewithal to take them. First of all, from a Don Cowie free-kick whipped into the box, Douglas Imrie sent a powerful header into the side netting, when it seemed easier to find the goal. That was in the 27th minute and two minutes later Iain Vigurs sent his shot goalward and it was only the deflection from his own team-mate, Wood, which sent it off target.

They had also had a lucky escape at the other end as well. Driver, who was on ebullient form, had darted down the wing and whizzed in a cross but, with Christian Nade lurking, Munro had to get a boot in and watched relieved as it nicked just wide of his own goalmouth.

Hearts were still struggling to find the kind of form which has seen them unbeaten at home since November but were given a break when they got the nod, quite literally, in the 39th minute. David Obua rose with Esson and while it seemed he had headed out the keeper's hands, the ball ended up over the line. Few expected it to stand but it did.

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"The referee said he out-jumped the goalie," said Duncan, "but I tell you what, he must have been jumping eight feet then! He doesn't header it. But the officials aren't giving us anything."

It was understandable that Inverness would feel aggrieved, given there was little between the teams at the time. They were therefore relieved to establish parity 10 minutes into the second half. It was another Cowie free-kick but this time there was someone capable of finishing it. Up from centre-half, Latvian Pavels Mihadjuks made the most of some poor Hearts marking to head home.

With a winner still needed, there were boos around the ground when Bruno Aguiar was substituted. The Portuguese midfielder expressed his own disgust and made straight down the tunnel without so much as a sideways glance at the Hearts technical area. Then came the missed penalty and it might have been Hearts heads which went down had it not been for McBain's red card.

Making the most of their one-man advantage, Driver and Obua again combined, another cross in and another header to go 2-1 up. That was the 79th minute but for all Inverness' faults, a lack of fight was not one of them and in the 88th minute Imrie curled in a 25 yard free-kick to equalise.

That's when the lack of a left-back came back to bite them, though. Driver drove into the area McBain should have been occupying and this time he found substitute Laryea Kingston with his cut-back to give Hearts the winner.


Andrew Driver was the supplier for all three Hearts goals and was the impetus for Hearts' sixth successive home win.


Inverness remain bottom of the league, a further point behind Falkirk, following their eighth league defeat in a row.


The Inverness contingent will have travelled back north bemoaning the interventions of the wonderfully-named assistant referee Willie Conquer, who signalled for the penalty after Andy Driver hit the deck and then reported Roy McBain for an off-the-ball incident to referee Steve Conroy, who promptly red-carded the player.

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