IT WAS the tale of two defences. One lived up to the hype, adding to the tally of clean sheets and protecting their position at the top of the Premiership, the other left Hibs well aware that they had contributed to their own downfall.
Inverness CT 3-0 Hibernian
Scorers: Inverness CT - McKay (10, 61), Foran (59)
Referee: W Collum
Against some sides, the odd slip-up may go unpunished, but when the top tier’s most prolific striker is positioned to pounce, the likelihood of escaping unscathed is minimal. Hibs gifted Inverness Caledonian Thistle their opening goal just ten minutes into the match when Billy McKay netted his eighth goal in nine games and after Richie Foran added a second in the 59th minute, McKay curled his side’s third inside the post and beyond the reach of Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams.
“[In the League Cup] on Tuesday we let in a couple of sloppy goals and today we let three in,” admitted the Hibs ’keeper. “They were all avoidable goals and that’s where the frustration comes from because if that doesn’t happen, and we showed a little bit more conviction at the other end and put our chances away, we come away comfortable winners, because there were times in the game we played much better football than they did.
“But they are effective at what they do and at the end of the day they have the points on the board and that’s what matters.”
The first goal came about after Graeme Shinnie crossed in from the left and Michael Nelson finally left the clearance to Williams.
“I tried for it, but Nels couldn’t get out the way of the ball and was already in the motion of clearing it, so I had to stop and let it bounce and the spin on the ball meant it bounced up and hit me on the chest rather than bouncing nicely into my arms. Then it fell great for probably their best finisher. That’s the unfortunate thing. Mistakes happen and it’s how we bounce back in our next games.”
Inverness proved adept at picking themselves up following their first league defeat last weekend. Sticking with the starting XI who have taken them to the top of the table, they worked together to ensure they would still be there come the final whistle.
“It was more like our usual selves. We showed what we are all about again,” said Gary Warren, who was happy that the Highland side maintained their 100 per cent record at home and added another clean sheet to their tally. “Whenever we start well we seem to kick on and that’s what happened. We were comfortable throughout because of our fitness and our attitude. We were quick out the blocks and showed what a good team we are.
“Billy is in great form. He scored a couple of great goals and could have maybe scored a few more. The lads create so many chances that we went in 3-0 but disappointed it wasn’t four or five. That’s the standards we set ourselves.”
That tenth-minute goal gave them the edge, but it was only once they scored the second and third with a quick one-two that they really killed off the match as a contest.
Pat Fenlon had just decided to add more of a creative edge to his side, readying Abdellah Zoubir to come on, when his defence again failed to clear their lines and paid the ultimate price.
Aaron Doran’s delivery into the box was headed back across goal by substitute Ben Greenhalgh and, with no-one in the visiting ranks able to deal emphatically with matters, when the ball came back off the bar it was Richie Foran who responded first, drilling the ball into the net.
“We let ourselves down,” conceded Williams, who was a helpless bystander when McKay sent a lovely shot beyond him two minutes later to complete the scoring. “There were too many of us who weren’t at the required tempo we have set. It is one defeat in seven so it’s important not to get too carried away with it, but there are things we need to work on and this serves as a reminder to us all not to get too carried away with ourselves. This is still a learning curve and part of the rebuilding process.”
Hibs threw on more attackers, with Rowan Vine and Sam Stanton joining the play, but it was Inverness who finished well on top, coming close to adding to the scoreline. McKay had a few chances to wrap up a hat-trick but was either profligate or denied by Paul Hanlon. The Hibs centre-back also foiled Doran in the dying minutes while the crossbar denied David Raven.
“We weren’t a million miles away at times and if we had scored when we were in the ascendency, it might have been different – but we didn’t and in the end we didn’t deserve anything from the game,” said the dejected Easter Road ’keeper. “We got beat and now we have to go back to the training ground and work on the areas where we were lacking in this game.”