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Caley Thistle bow out of SPFL Trust Trophy – but U18s show up well at Hamilton Accies

Duncan Proudfoot in action for Caley Thistle against Hamilton Accies.
Image: SNS
Duncan Proudfoot in action for Caley Thistle against Hamilton Accies. Image: SNS

Caley Thistle’s youthful side their gave their all despite a 2-0 defeat at Hamilton in the SPFL Trust Trophy fourth round.

An unlucky Sam Nixon early on put Accies ahead and, despite a spirited response, Reegan Mimnaugh doubled the scoreline with a tap-in before the break.

ICT’s starlets dug deep in the second half as the tempo dipped and walked off none the worse.

Accies, who are bottom of the Championship, made seven changes to their line-up against their visitors from Inverness, who have nine regular players sidelined through injury.

The Highland club, who are currently sixth in the Championship, confirmed last week it would be mostly Ryan Esson’s under-18s taking on Hamilton due to their ongoing injury crisis.

There was a complete change to their starting 11, with keeper Mark Ridgers and recent full-back recruit Ryan Barrett the only non-under-18s. Throughout the ICT squad, 14 academy graduates were named.

Hamilton’s Matthew Shiels (left) and Inverness’ Keith Bray.

ICT are back at Hamilton next week on league business and it was felt most of the first-team needed a weekend off to recharge.

At stake here though was a place in the quarter-finals of the competition known formerly as the Challenge Cup, a trophy both these teams have won twice.

Caley Thistle’s only victory since beating Cove Rangers 1-0 in the league on October 15 was a 3-2 Scottish Cup win at home to League Two Stirling Albion.

Last week, a positive performance counted for little for ICT as they fell to a 1-0 home league loss against title-chasers Dundee, which left Billy Dodds’ men nine points off top spot.

Former Inverness and Ross County midfielder John Rankin is the manager at New Douglas Park and, like ICT, is surely mostly concerned with earning league points, given their current plight.

From the team which slid to a 4-0 Hampden defeat at Queen’s Park, the hosts also shook up their side, with several youngsters getting their chance to shine.

In light of the team selections perhaps, the admission price was set at just £3, to entice fans in on a bitterly cold and sleety afternoon. Almost 500 took up the offer.

The visitors got off to the worst possible start when they fell behind after just three minutes.

Hamilton players celebrate after the early breakthrough against Caley Thistle.

A driving run down the right by Lucas De Bolle leads to a cross, which Ridgers failed to hold and it spun off Nixon into the net before he could do anything about it. The pace off the ball into the danger area made it extremely tough to defend against.

Inverness heads didn’t drop though and only a fine diving save from Jamie Smith kept out a net-bound header from Keith Bray when he connected with a Duncan Proudfoot pass.

Another attack moments later ended with Calum MacKay steering a low drive just beyond the right post after Aaron Nicolson played him through. It was  a second early warning shot for the young Highlanders.

Hamilton responded with a drive from Jean Pierre Tiehi, which Ridgers saved, then Ryan One swerved an effort wide from 20 yards.

Andy Winter was next to have a go for the hosts when his deflected grounder flashed past the left post on 20 minutes.

A swift corner from Calum MacKay for Inverness lined up Nicolson at the edge of the box, but this attempt spun just off target.

Hamilton’s Matthew Shiels (left) chases ICT’s Calum MacKay.

On 34 minutes, however, it was 2-0 for Hamilton as a run and cross from Winter was steered home from close range by first-teamer Mimnaugh.

It was a sore one for the ICT young guns, who on another day, may already have been level.

Again, Inverness didn’t fold and Nicolson drew another catch from Smith when he got on the end of a cross from Matthew Strachan. The keeper had also saved from a Calum MacKay long-ranger.

After surviving a offside goal, Ridgers ensured no further damage by the break when he dived to save a swerver from Gabe Forsyth.

The first chance of note in the second half arrived when One created a gap at the edge of the box and guided a low drive just past Ridgers’ right post.

Chances were few and far between as the pace dropped a bit, with ICT seeking an opening and Accies looking for a way to add a third, but not with the same intensity as the first half.

One was Accies’ main man and he was direct again and was disappointed to see another shot saved by Ridgers with 20 minutes left.

Ridgers then clutched a Forsyth free-kick when he hit the target from the edge of the penalty box 10 minutes later.

Young keeper Danny Gillan, who replaced Ridgers late on, pulled off a stoppage-time stop from One to keep Hamilton at two.

HAMILTON (4-2-3-1) – Smith 6, Doyle 6, Shiels 6, Tiehi 6 (Black 84), Mimnaugh 7 (Latona 66), Winter 6 (Morgan 84), De Bolle 6 (Newbury 71), Owens 6, McGinn 6, One 7, Forsyth 6. Subs not used – Fulton (GK), O’Reilly, Ryan, Zanatta, Smith.

CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2) – Ridgers 6 (Gillan 87), Barrett 6 (Alistair Nixon 72), Strachan 6, Sam Nixon 6, Walker 6 (MacDougall 84), Carnihan 6, Proudfoot 7 (Calum MacLeod 72), Bray 6, Nicolson 7 (Mackie 84), Calum MacKay 7, Bain 6.

Referee – Duncan Williams.

Attendance – 488.

Man of the match – Ryan One.