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Inverness will challenge Josh Meekings' Scottish Cup final ban

By Ronnie Esplin

Inverness have vowed to fight a William Hill Scottish Cup final ban for "mentally shattered" defender Josh Meekings.

The club instantly rejected the offer of a one-match ban for the centre-back for handling Leigh Griffiths' goal-bound header in the main flashpoint of their 3-2 semi-final victory over Celtic on Sunday.

The charge - of "denying the opposing team an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball" - came from Scottish Football Association compliance officer Tony McGlennan amid a furore over referee Steven McLean's failure to award a penalty.

Celtic had already written to the SFA seeking an explanation for their failure to get a spot-kick while leading 1-0 at Hampden.

Caley Thistle are already missing their other regular centre-back, Gary Warren, for the final against Falkirk on May 30 after he received his second booking of the tournament against Celtic.

And they immediately announced their intention to fight a suspension for Meekings, which would fall over the final.

In a statement, they said: "The club intend to vigorously defend our player and we are taking legal advice on the issue.

"We are extremely disappointed that this has arisen and the player himself is mentally shattered at the turn of events.

"Josh is keen to appear in person at the disciplinary hearing and we will most strongly support him by all means available."

Tomorrow's Hampden hearing could centre on the argument over whether Meekings' handball was deliberate.

The 22-year-old Englishman's arm was raised but his eyes appeared closed as he attempted to block the header with his own head.

The former Ipswich trainee said after the game: "It has come off my arm, but he is two yards away from me. I have just gone to throw my body in the way. Unfortunately it has come off my hand but fortunately it hasn't been given."

Former Bhoys ace John Hartson was once on the end of a major Hampden injustice while playing for Celtic - but he cannot see any point in his old club writing to the Scottish Football Association over the latest controversy at the national stadium.

Hartson had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside while Celtic were 2-1 down in an Old Firm League Cup final and the Welshman went on to miss a last-minute penalty that could have sparked extra-time.

But he refused to dwell on the match officials' error - and called on Celtic to move on from the latest setback rather than writing letters.

"I'm not sure what sort of purpose it's going to serve," said Hartson. "It has happened before and will happen again. There's a lot of disappointment at Celtic and rightly so, it should have been a penalty.

"I think the referee just missed it, I'm sure if he'd seen it he would have given it.

"It happened to me in 2003 when I scored a legitimate goal against Rangers at Hampden Park in a cup final. It was proven to be two yards onside and it got called offside. It was a big moment for me.

"I was disappointed for two days and I got over it, and I think Celtic will get over it."

Hartson believes Ronny Deila can still class his first season as Celtic manager a success if they go on to clinch the Scottish Premiership title - they can move eight points clear of Aberdeen by beating Dundee at Dens Park tonight.

"I think if you had offered the chance to win a double to a young rookie manager who had not managed anywhere near this level, and a lot of people didn't know who he was, I think he would have taken that," said Hartson.


Scottish Premiership: Dens Park, 7.45 pm



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