LIAM Polworth does not believe Caley Thistle were affected by their bus delay ahead of the Queen of the South game – and the players just wanted to play.
The Caley Jags were on the road for 13 hours by the time they eventually reached Dumfries at 3am on Saturday morning, after getting stuck for more than six hours on the A9 due to a serious accident.
Emergency services, including an air ambulance, were on the scene at Killiecrankie late on Friday afternoon as a 67-year-old woman was airlifted to hospital, thought to be in a critical condition.
Owing to the delay and the fact they had gone through their supplies of food and water on the bus, manager John Robertson notified Queen of the South boss Gary Naysmith and the SPFL’s operations manager Anton Fagan by phone that the club were requesting a postponement.
Both were sympathetic to the club’s plight but the calls for a call-off fell on deaf ears to the SPFL secretary Iain Blair – the target of a vociferous on-air tirade by Robertson prior to kick-off on Saturday – and the board at Queens.
Polworth insists there was little the players could do and that it did not overly affect their preparations for the game, despite players getting just a few hours’ sleep.
“We were sitting about for a while but once you get a little sleep and a long-lie in the morning, it’s fine,” said Polworth. “I don’t know if we were that badly affected. We had a late night but you’re going to get that every now and then. You have to get on with it.
“I can’t imagine many people have experienced anything like that and it’s a terrible thing to happen. You’re only wishing the best for the people involved. If you’ve got to sit there you’ve got to sit there, there’s nothing you can do.
“If you’re already going down anyway then definitely, you want to get it played. You don’t want to be coming down on a Tuesday night. In all honesty it was a really poor game – there was no real quality in either side.
“When you’re in a game like that, you’re just making sure you don’t want to get beat. I didn’t really think we were going to score but I couldn’t see them scoring either.”
The game itself was a pretty drab affair, with the odd save by both goalkeepers but no real moments of quality in the 0-0 draw.
What happened prior to the game inevitably overshadowed what actually took place on the park. However, Polworth brushed off suggestions that their preparations were overly disrupted.
Once the bus eventually got moving again at around 11pm, they had to factor a stop at Perth in to allow the bus driver due rest – while also giving the players a surprise treat at McDonald’s.
By the time they made the Holiday Inn at Dumfries it was 3am, with Robertson full of praise for the hotel staff and the emergency services for their help.
“I don’t know if our preparations were that bad. We would have come down and had an early night but we didn’t. There’s nothing else you can really say about it,” added Polworth.
“We were sitting there hour after hour, just hoping everyone was alright. People went down and spoke to them and they were saying ‘another hour, another hour’, until we got moving again.
“I’m sure the manager was upset because he doesn’t want his players having a tough night but you’ve just got to get out of it. We got a McDonald’s out of it – you’ve got to win somewhere haven’t you!”
Inverness were prepared to turn round at Pitlochry and forfeit the points according to Robertson, had the bus not got moving before midnight. Queens manager Naysmith and Fagan were understanding of the situation, with Robertson directing his fury squarely at Blair.
“If he is ever sat on the A9 in a similar situation he might have some understanding,” said Robertson before the game. “We were quite prepared that had the bus been in traffic at 12, we were going to turn back at Pitlochry and head back up the road.
“If we don’t play, we get fined £10-15 grand. That’s the ludicrous part. This is the same man that allows Rangers and Celtic to cancel games to play glamour friendlies. Just because it’s little old Inverness, it can’t be allowed to happen.
“We were told by Iain Blair by text that he wanted the game to go ahead regardless of our situation. It’s a very poor decision.”
SPFL policy indicates that if both clubs request a postponement and a suitable date can be agreed for a rescheduled game, the request is likely to be granted.
However on this occasion no such situation occurred. Robertson intimated before the game that Queens wanted the game played.