Inverness 3 - 3 Hearts: Hearts blow the chance to go second

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson during his side's 3-3 at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. Picture: SNS/Paul Devlin

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson during his side's 3-3 at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. Picture: SNS/Paul Devlin

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This was Scottish football at its most enjoyable. Lots of goals, bags of entertainment, two teams pushing for the three points and some truly amateurish defending. All of which combined for six goals and a share of the spoils for in-form Inverness CT and visitors Hearts.

If you can’t get your fans a victory, then a thoroughly watchable 90 minutes isn’t a bad substitute. There was still enough to lament on both sides when referee Craig Thomson drew the game to a close. Inverness will wonder how they surrendered a two-goal advantage to a team that looked void of ideas in the first half, while Hearts will rue the frightful ease in which their hosts recaptured the lead after they’d managed to haul themselves level at 2-2.

The result managed to push Hearts above Aberdeen and St Johnstone, both of whom lost, into third place, though they remian level with the two sides on points. Considering the points dropped over the past week, there still remains a sense of frustration as the chance to make second place their own was really there for the taking.

“There were positives and negatives to take from both sides,” reflected Hearts coach Robbie Neilson. “The positives were that we went 2-0 down and got ourselves back in the game, played some really good football and could have won the game. The negative is that we scored three goals and left with a point. There were periods in the first half were really good and periods when we were really bad. In the second half I thought, on the whole, we were good.”

Hearts had a lot of possession in the opening period, but similar to Wednesday’s woeful performance at Rugby Park, they rarely looked like creating much with it. Inverness carried a greater threat from the off and almost went ahead in six minutes when Lonsana Doumbouya headed off the top of the crossbar.

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After Robbie Muirhead flashed a shot wide of goal, Caley Thistle suffered what appeared to be a blow, losing left-back Carl Tremarco to injury. The knock would become a blessing in disguise when, at the end of a well executed move, his replacement David Raven gave the hosts the lead. The natural right-back drifted inside was on hand to smash the ball into the bottom corner after Ross Draper cushioned a header into his path.

On 32 minutes, the home side went two ahead with, what Hearts would consider, alarming ease. Igor Rossi gave away possession as he stepped out of defence. The home side made the most of their advantage as Iain Vigurs squared for Liam Polworth, who then found Doumouya running free into the box. This time the striker made no mistake, passing beyond Hamilton from 10 yards.

Just when Inverness seemed to have the match completely in control, a slip from Josh Meekings in defence allowed Hearts back into it. Don Cowie fed through a pass for Johnsen and the big striker blasted beyond young goalkeeper Cameron Mackay.

Hearts finished the period in the ascendancy and found themselves level six minutes after the restart. Faycal Rherras, Hearts’ right-footed left back, cut on to his stronger side and curled in a cross which evaded everyone and landed in the net at the back post.

The thoroughly impressive Polworth then drew a save from Hamilton with a well executed scissor kick before the hosts pushed themselves back in front. A speculative ball forward saw Cowie and Aaron Doran battling for possession. The Irishman did brilliantly to ease his man off the ball before staying cool and stroking beyond Hamilton.

Hearts brought Tony Watt off the bench and the striker played a part in his side’s equaliser. After beating his man and racing to the byline, his cutback narrowly evaded Johnsen. But when Hearts quickly won back possession, Arnaud Djoum planted a low drive into the far corner.

The Cameroon international, who was Hearts best player on the day, almost won the match a few moments later, but his reactionary header from a Cowie shot didn’t have the power to trouble Mackay.

“I thought we bossed it,” said ICT boss Richie Foran. “We played some terrific football at times and I’m delighted with the performance. Take away a couple of mistakes and I thought we were brilliant. Play like that and we’ll win most games.”

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