INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle last night confirmed they will appeal the red card issued to defender Josh Meekings in Sunday’s heroic League Cup semi-final victory over Hearts at Easter Road with a SFA tribunal expected on Thursday.
At 2-1 down and with nine men, the Highlanders snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last-gasp Nick Ross leveller to force extra-time against the Tynecastle club. They then held out for another 30 minutes without both Meekings and Gary Warren, who was earlier dismissed for two yellows, before beating their semi-final opponents on penalties.
Despite euphoria at reaching the club’s first major final, manager John Hughes raised doubts over both red cards in the immediate aftermath of the dramatic victory. Now he and club chairman Kenny Cameron have decided the dismissal of Meekings, who tripped Hearts midfielder Scott Robinson, is worthy of an appeal.
However, Warren will definitely miss the 16 March final against Aberdeen as he had already been booked in an earlier round. Hughes said: “I don’t think Gary Warren’s first one was a booking. The second one was even worse. And is Josh Meekings’ a red card? All he has done is tripped him.”
Goalkeeper Dean Brill, a hero among heroes for Inverness with two spot-kick saves in the shoot-out, also called for Meekings to be reprieved.
“It’s not a sending-off. I really don’t think it is,” said Brill. “I hope it’s overturned. For Josh to miss [the final] for something so trivial, just a trip maybe – it happens all the time.
“We said on the pitch at the time just try and stay on the game. At 2-1 you’re never out of it, and we showed we weren’t. Fair play to Nick, he was left out today but came on and got us back in the game.”
Reflecting on the dramatic events at Easter Road, former Luton Town goalkeeper Brill added: “You couldn’t write a script like that. The boys were fantastic, as were the fans who travelled down. Fantastic day.
“It’s massive for a club of our size. It’s a real community club, you know everybody, we’re all in it together. It will be great for the fans. It was a tough one for them today to travel down the A9 at seven o’clock or whenever it was. They backed us all the way, so hopefully they’re looking forward to it as much as we are.
“Nobody really likes us, so it’s good to get there and put in a good performance. I just feel like we’re a small club up in the Highlands and nobody likes coming up there – probably because we’re a hard team to play against. We’re punching above our weight, and I certainly wouldn’t like to play against us.”
Aberdeen haven’t particularly enjoyed playing against Inverness in previous meetings this season and when Caley recently won 1-0 at Pittodrie, there were reports of lingering bad blood between the two sets of players.
Brill was reluctant to stir up any more acrimony between the sides, but added: “If they think they should beat us every week, then maybe they should, the size of the club and the budget. But we won’t hold grudges. We’ll go into the game, enjoy the day and see where it takes us.
“I don’t think it’s about sticking one up other people. It’s about the players, the club and the community. I don’t want to make out that everyone hates us. I think it would be good for Scottish football and for the club itself.”
Brill, 28, had been in his second spell at hometown club Luton before John Hughes’ predecessor brought him north of the Border and the Englishman is revelling in the experience.
“I’m grateful to Terry Butcher for bringing me up here and giving me the chance to play. Hopefully I’ve grasped it with two hands. A cup final to look forward to is probably something I wouldn’t have imagined at the start of the season, so it’s been a fantastic season so far. But we’ve got a long way to go and hopefully we can get there and win it as well.”
Brill collected a winner’s medal in the 2004 Football League Trophy at Wembley and thinks this forthcoming final against Aberdeen will be another memorable experience. “I think it’s right up there,” he said.
“Luton were in a similar position to Hearts (in administration) when we went there, but to get to a major cup final in Scotland is fantastic for us. I’m just really looking forward to it.
“I think we’re heroes already if I’m honest with you.”