Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell revealed Brian Graham has apologised for his part in the Highland derby fracas which has resulted in the attacker landing a two-match suspension.
Graham was dismissed in the latter stages of County’s 2-1 victory over Caley Thistle, with referee Andrew Dallas appearing to already reach for his red card following his initial challenge on Coll Donaldson. The incident prompted a heated altercation with Caley Jags defender Shaun Rooney, who was also sent off.
County have now received confirmation Graham will miss tonight’s game against Morton at Cappielow along with next weekend’s trip to Queen of the South.
Although Kettlewell took issue with Dallas’ initial decision to send off Graham, he says the 31-year-old has acknowledged he got carried away in the heat of the derby in the melee that ensued.
Kettlewell said: “I’ve seen still pictures that make it look a lot worse than in real-time.
“First and foremost, I didn’t think the initial contact was a red card. The red card was out very quickly. I thought referees were instructed to calm the situation down and go into it with a clear head. It’s not a criticism. The referee has obviously seen it differently from me.
“These things do happen in derby matches. I’m not condoning it or saying it is OK.
“There was a reaction from the Caley Thistle players to Brian’s challenge and we would never want our players to stand there and get hurt. I think there were four players around Brian as soon as it happened.
“Brian has apologised for his part in it, which we accept, but passions run high playing in a derby match. I think we’d have a problem if they didn’t run high.”
County will move six points clear of Ayr United at the top of the Championship if they win at Cappielow tonight, with the Honest Men hosting Falkirk tomorrow.
Kettlewell added: “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to imagine what our message to the players is going to be.
“The games played earlier in the weekend are a real benefit, if you take advantage.
“It is a place where we’ve lost already this season, albeit we felt we did a lot of decent things well in the game. It isn’t going to be easy.”
Kettlewell revealed Canadian midfielder Harry Paton is in contention after being recalled from a loan spell with League 1 side Stenhousemuir, adding: “I know Colin McMenamin, the Stenhousemuir manager, well from my time playing here and he was desperate to keep Harry.
“But Harry has shown a real appetite to come back and put his name into the fray here, which we’re delighted with.
“It was always a project with Harry, a younger lad coming in from Hearts who had played 30 games on loan at Stenny and helped them gain promotion.
“He has gone out again and done well for the first part of the season, so he comes back into our group. He is in consideration for the weekend.”