Inverness CT 2-0 Heart of Midlothian
Ten man Hearts succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday.
A first half double from Billy McKay made sure that the points stayed in the highlands as Jamie Hamill received a late red card, though Jamie Macdonald saved the resultant penalty.
The Jambos made three changes from the midweek win over Raith Rovers. Danny Wilson and Kevin McHattie missed out through suspension and were replaced by Jordan McGhee and Callum Tapping, while David Smith came in to lead the line in the place of Billy King.
Hearts started the match with real attacking intent. A flowing nine pass move after only two minutes saw Jason Holt lay the ball off to Jamie Walker at the edge of the box, but his shot flew inches past Dean Brill's right hand post.
However it was the home side who took the lead after nine minutes. Aaron Doran was released down the right hand side and his pinpoint cross was met first time by Billy McKay, whose right foot half volley slammed into the roof of the net from nine yards out.
Walker again went close on 25 minutes. Callum Paterson nutmegged his man inside the box but couldn't retrieve the ball on the other side, which left Walker to collect and drill an angled shot past the outstretched Brill, but unfortunately past the post as well.
With 32 minutes gone and against the run of play Caley Thistle doubled their lead. Richie Foran broke from a Hearts corner and tore through the middle of the park before sending the ball right to Doran inside the box whose shot was blocked and fell back to Foran, but the Caley captain couldn't get a strong foot on the ball. What he did get on it however was enough to knock it back to the waiting Billy McKay who pounced in the six yard box and floated a shot into the far corner of the net.
Hearts almost responded in quick fashion when Walker picked the pocket of Graeme Shinnie in the home side's box, but his rocket shot beat the 'keeper and cannoned back off the post.
After the restart Inverness passed up a glorious double chance to make it 3-0. First Ross Draper crossed for Gary Warren whose first header went skyward, but the big centre half challenged for the second ball in the six yard box and won, sending his header on top of the crossbar. From that Billy McKay chased the ball down and found James Vincent unmarked in the box, but his volley failed to hit the target.
By this point the home side were in firm control. On 55 minutes Nick Ross broke down the left hand side and crossed for Billy McKay, but the Caley hitman's exquisite dink towards goal fell the wrong side of Jamie Mcdonald's left hand post.
Macdonald was on hand with a smart block from Billy McKay a minute later before Gary Locke introduced Billy King for David Smith in an attempt to freshen things up.
The Hearts no. 1 then produced a stunning one-handed save from a long range Foran shot as Caley showed no signs of letting their grip on the game go.
Hearts' afternoon was summed up with ten minutes remaining when referee John Beaton issued a red card to Jamie Hamill when the captain was judged to have handballed in the box. Billy McKay stepped up but saw his effort expertly beaten away by Macdonald.
A frustrating afternoon for the young Jambos who could not match Caley's tempo in the second half, international week now becomes a welcome break for Gary Locke and his players.
Inverness CT: Brill, Raven, Shinnie, Vincent (Greenhalgh, 91), Warren, Meekings, Billy McKay (Agdestein, 90'), Draper, Foran, Doran, Ross. Subs not used: Esson, Devine, Tremarco, Williams, Polworth.
Hearts: Macdonald; McGhee, Brad McKay, McGowan, Hamill; Tapping (Oliver, 62'); Paterson, Holt, Walker (Nicholson, 74'); D. Smith (B. King, 55'). Subs not used: Ridgers, A. King, Buchanan, Beith.
Referee: John Beaton
Top man: Jamie Macdonald