WERE he the brash or vindictive sort, Billy Mckay might well have let rip at his interrogators last night. Basking in the glow of a return to classic, predatory form – with two goals from Caley Thistle’s four – his efforts helped hoist the Highlanders back to the top of the league.
Scorers: Inverness - McKay (25, 68), Warren (59), Vincent (78); Hamilton - Andreu (17, 72)
The Northern Ireland international had endured a 12-game run and the odd accompanying, derogatory, headline of late, but all were blown aside by yesterday’s contribution. It was a fine return to form in a splendid, pulsating game of football. It was Mckay’s crucial double that would have been on the lips of the home support, bolstered by free gates for under 16s, as they filed away into the Moray Firth breeze.
With admirable restraint, Mckay reflected on his goals with typical joviality, before returning home for his passport for the coming qualifying trip to Romania with his country.
“It was important for me to get back in among the goals and I’m looking now to really kick on from here,” the 25-year-old striker said.
“But the most important thing, again, was we got the win and it has taken us top of the table. It is a great win going into the international break.
“The worst we can be is second if Celtic win tomorrow. We could hardly ask for a better position at this stage in the season.
“I’ve had spells without a goal before in my career – and I’ll probably have it again.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
With Gary Warren and James Vincent also weighing in, a spirited Accies side were ultimately overwhelmed in a genuinely captivating contest between two adventurous teams.
In a bright opening from the away team, Tony Andreu’s first came after a David Raven foul on Jon Routledge in the 16th minute.
Fully 35 yards out, the threat seemed minimal but the Frenchman’s Cristian Ronaldo-style toe-punt rocketed past a stationary Dean Brill and in off the inside post.
From there, Caley Thistle took a grip on the first half.
Within eight minutes they were level, with Raven’s original delivery from the right bouncing beyond reach of Marley Watkins in the box. The on-form Welshman was quick to compose himself, though, drilling back across to Mckay who wiped out the recent with a sharp touch and eight-yard finish past Michael McGovern. Into the second period, Accies again opened brightly and again the bubble was burst.
Tansey’s corner from the right was met by a textbook leap and header from defender Gary Warren. From seven yards, McGovern had no chance.
The hosts then seemed to be in comfortable territory as they surged 3-1 up after 68 minutes with Raven’s high ball forward controlled by Watkins whose attempt at goal was only parried to McGovern’s left.
Mckay raced in to score from three yards and round off his return to scoring form in style.
Four minutes later, though, Andreu’s fairly tame effort from just inside the box surprised home keeper Dean Brill and squirmed through his body.
But there was no putting Hughes’ men down and James Vincent raced onto a clever head-flick by Watkins to net the fourth.
Hamilton’s Alex Neil praised his young team, but also pointed out the defensive mistakes that had proven costly.
A philosophical John Hughes seemed in Dead Poet’s Society mode post-match with a seize-the-day message.
“All I said to them after the match, using my own experience, was there’s no doubt we’ll bump into each other five or ten years down the line. One of them might even buy me a beer!” Hughes said.
“I’m quite sure that day they will say to me ‘gaffer, see when we were at Inverness, that was the best time of my career’.
“And all I’m saying to them is, if that is the case, you need to grasp it right now. Enjoy your football. I’ve got lads out there enjoying themselves.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS