Inverness duo cleared for League Cup final

MARLEY Watkins and Greg Tansey will be free to play for Inverness in Sunday’s League Cup final against Aberdeen after their club decided not to appeal against their sendings-off in their Scottish Cup quarter-final two days ago.

Marley Watkins, sitting, is red-carded for his tackle on Paul Paton on Sunday. Picture: SNS
Marley Watkins, sitting, is red-carded for his tackle on Paul Paton on Sunday. Picture: SNS

The pair will now sit out Caley Thistle’s home league match against Hibernian tomorrow night, as well as being suspended for one game in next season’s Scottish Cup. Had Inverness appealed and lost, the ban could have applied to Sunday instead of tomorrow.

“I thought because of the laws and the politics it would be very stupid to appeal it,” Caley Thistle manager John Hughes said yesterday. “Lose it and they’d miss the cup final. If we don’t appeal they miss the Hibs game and a cup tie next season.”

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Having made that decision, Hughes insisted that at least one of the red cards issued in his club’s match against Dundee United on Sunday was harsh, and that Paul Paton of United was more deserving of a dismissal. United won the game 5-0 – the second match in succession that the former Hibs manager’s new team have let in five goals.

“Marley could feel hard done by,” he added. “I could possibly see why he sent Tansey off. There was a sort of jump there, but was there malice? No. Having played the game for 30 years, I probably know the game better than the referees, on what’s a tackle and what’s not a tackle. What’s a free kick and what’s not a free kick.

“They know the rules but I know the game – and the worst tackle in the game went unpunished. The one from Paton went unpunished, but you can’t do anything about it. We didn’t even get a free kick, yet it was the worst tackle in the game. I’m not questioning the integrity of the ref, just scratching my head.

“Look back to the [League Cup] semi-final and the sending-offs,” Hughes continued, referring to the game against Hearts which Inverness won on penalties despite being down to nine men. “Yet the worst tackle in the game was [Scott] Robinson on [Billy] McKay and it went with a yellow card. Once again you’re scratching your head.”

Josh Meekings and Gary Warren were the two dismissed in that match. Meekings’ straight red was later downgraded to a yellow, meaning he can play at Celtic Park against Aberdeen. Warren walked for two bookable offences so could not appeal – a fact that provoked Hughes’ wrath further. He said: “We’re grateful Josh got rescinded. Gary Warren didn’t because of the rules and I’m just hoping Sunday doesn’t get spoiled with some of the stuff that has been happening of late.”

While Caley Thistle will finally clinch a place in the top six if they beat Hibs, for Hughes the match is in many respects an unwelcome one at this time. He believes it, and various other factors, are all conspiring to favour Aberdeen in the final. “For some unknown reason the SPFL have said there’s Hibernian midweek,” he said of the league game, rescheduled from last month after Stranraer took Caley Thistle to a replay in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup. “Aberdeen have got the advantage, if they didn’t have it already having sold 40,000 tickets. For some unknown reason someone has said there’s a game.

“These boys go into it and if we get a red card they miss the cup final. If they go into a cup final and get injured what do I do? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I’m just hoping we can pick a team that can go and do it.

“That game against Hibs. Who did that? That’s advantage Aberdeen. They’re sitting resting up. What happens if I pick up sending-offs or injuries? Advantage Aberdeen. Give them the cup. There you go.

“Enjoy your couple of days off and go and play your golf. Do what you want – while we still have to train and get prepared. We can’t even prepare for the cup yet or think about Aberdeen. We’ve still got Hibs to worry about.

“You know we’ve never had a game called off in Inverness in my time here. Yet we play Saturday-Wednesday and Saturday-Wednesday.

“Maybe the SPFL will say there’s no other day we could have played Hibs and I’m talking a load of tosh. If so, then I’ll take it on the chin. All I’m saying is I’d rather not have had the Hibs game than have it. Yet there might still be a couple of things written in the stars. You know why? It could be a blessing in disguise these two guys got sent off. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise we’re playing Hibs because we need that game and need to put something right. Maybe it’s going against us and it’ll just come right for cup final day. Those boys might come in on cup-final day fresh as a daisy and one of them becomes man of the match.”

While his manager is increasingly concerned by perceived injustices, Meekings is simply relieved to have been freed to play in the final. “I was fairly confident I would get something, because I felt at the time it was a bit harsh,” he said of his appeal. “It was one of those things: the referee has made a mistake, and he’s put his hands up and accepted that. I can only be thankful now that I’m able to play.”