Top met bottom in the SPFL Premiership as Hearts were the visitors to a sunny Caledonian Stadium, but left the Highlands with no points as Inverness Caledonian Thistle secured all three points with a 2-0 win.
Inverness went into the match unbeaten and sitting three points clear at the top of the league having secured a well-deserved draw away last weekend to champions Celtic. While Hearts although bottom on minus eight points actually went into the match as one of the league form sides having picked up seven points in their opening four league matches.
Hearts started the game without influential captain Danny Wilson through suspension with the defender having supposedly shouted some sheep related profanities at the end of their win last weekend against Aberdeen. Hearts were also missing young defender McHattie who couldn’t make it having injured himself during Hearts midweek extra-time victory over Raith Rovers in the League Cup.
Inverness went into the match minus wing-man Marley Watkins but he wasn’t to be missed as Aaron Doran and David Raven linked up well to set up Billy McKay for Caley Thistles opening goal on 10 minutes as the Northern Irish international slotted the ball into the bottom corner from just inside the box.
Hearts nearly replied on 25 minutes with a great goal of their own when Jamie Walker had a turn and shot from just outside the box, however his effort went just past the post.
Next to go close was Nick Ross on 28 minutes when he had an effort from distance, however his shot also went narrowly wide of MacDonald’s post.
Caley Thistle did manage to double their lead however through their prolific Northern Irish striker on 32 minutes. Billy McKay’s fifth league goal of the season could have originally gone to Aaron Doran whose initial shot was saved but Vincent picked up the pieces and laid the ball to McKay who powered the ball into the net to make it 2-0 to Inverness.
Hearts came closest to scoring on 41 minutes when a slip up by Inverness captain Graeme Shinnie let Jamie Walker through on goal, but the youngsters effort crashed off the past and out for a goal-kick.
Into the second-half and Inverness continued to dominate the game with superior possession. This possession nearly paid off when first McKay missed a Vincent cross in front of an empty goal only for Gary Warren to power a header to the back post which came off the top of the bar.
On 53 minutes Billy McKay past up a great opportunity to get his hat-trick as he was unable to turn in his effort after receiving a cross from Nick Ross who had run all the way to the Hearts goal-line having picked up the ball in his own half.
Billy McKay passed up another great goal opportunity on 75 minutes when through alone on goal the striker pulled the ball too far wide past the keeper and was unable to get a shot off on goal to test the keeper.
The match was over as a contest with ten minutes remaining as Jamie Hamill was sent off for a deliberate hand-ball.
The Hearts defender took his time when leaving the field which gave MacDonald plenty of time to suss out McKay whose timid penalty was easily saved – this was the third straight penalty missed by McKay.
Butcher after the match rued McKay’s decision to take the penalty and the team’s inability to extend its lead in the second-half. For Gary Locke the loss of Jamie Hamill against Celtic is a blow which will be difficult to deal with considering he already has a very small and young squad to deal with.
Next up for Inverness is a trip to Kilmarnock on September 14th while Hearts face a lunch-time kick-off against Celtic also on September 14th.
Inverness CT: Brill, Shinnie, Vincent (Greenhalgh), Warren, Meekings, McKay (Agdestein), Draper, Foran, Doran, Ross
Subs not used: Esson, Tremarco, Williams, Polworth
Hearts: MacDonald, Hamill, McGowan, Robinson, Paterson, Walker (Nicholson), Holt, McKay, Smith (B King), Tapping (Oliver), McGhee
Subs not used: Ridgers, A King, Beith, Buchanan