Caley Thistle fell to defeat against Rangers on a night in which they failed to live up to their early promise, in front of a bumper crowd watching the first league meeting between the sides in nearly five years.
It had been a bright start from Caley Jags, who ought to have taken the lead when Frenchman Lonsana Doumbouya directed a free header over the bar just three minutes in.
The Highlanders were powerless to prevent the goal which put Rangers ahead midway through the first-half however, as Kenny Miller thundered home an exquisite volley befitting of his 100th goal for the club.
Caley Jags were unable to claw their way back, with the Gers comfortable in their lead for the most part, although substitute Alex Fisher spurned a fine chance to restore the lead with a late header.
Caley Jags are a fine example of a club that has thrived during Rangers’ absence from the top-flight, winning the Scottish Cup and enjoying their first taste of European football. Richie Foran, fresh from winning the manager of the month award after presiding over an unbeaten five-match run in September, was keen to show how far his side have come since they faced the Gers in the league in February 2012, a match which the Glasgow side won 4-1, in which the Irishman played.
Foran was forced to make one change from the side that drew 1-1 at Hamilton last time out, with Josh Meekings ruled out through injury, meaning David Raven returned to the starting line-up. Raven slotted in at right back in the shake-up, with Brad McKay moving inside to his favoured centre half position. The home side began at a frantic pace, and could have scored in the opening stages when Greg Tansey’s free-kick from the left picked out the unmarked head of forward Lonsana Doumbouya, however he sent his effort over from close-range. Inverness probed again on 10 minutes when Carl Tremarco cut inside with an excellent touch before teeing up Liam Polworth, who saw his strike from the edge of the box comfortably gathered by Foderingham.
Attacker Martyn Waghorn looked Rangers’ most promising outlet in the opening minutes, and he came inches away from putting the visitors ahead with a venomous 30-yard effort that whistled just over Owain Fon Williams’ bar.
There was precious little the Welshman could do to prevent the goal which put Mark Warburton’s men ahead on 22 minutes however. The Light Blues had settled gradually into the game following an uncertain start, and when captain Lee Wallace swung the ball in from the left it was met by a stunning first-time volley 12 yards out by veteran attacker Miller, showing his experience to expertly thump it home.
Having established the lead Rangers threatened to take control and Fon Williams had to make a superb save to prevent them doubling their lead only four minutes later. Clint Hill got on the end of Niko Kranjcar’s corner towards goal, with Waghorn attempting to swing it home from close-range only to be thwarted by a scrambled low save from the goalkeeper.
Inverness looked to strike back before the interval, with Polworth curling an effort over and Ross Draper shooting low at Foderingham.
Caley Jags were looking for a bright start to the second-half but it was the visitors who began on the front foot, with Miller seeing a neat low strike well tipped round the post by Fon Williams, before Jason Holt sidefooted over from James Tavernier’s cross.
Rangers appeared comfortable in their lead despite being just a solitary goal ahead, as Caley Jags struggled to work the ball into dangerous areas. It was the Ibrox men who continued to look likelier to add to the scoreline, with Kranjcar seeing his low strike from the edge of the box gathered by Fon Williams, while Tremarco was required to make a fantastic last-ditch tackle to thwart Waghorn as he bore down on goal.
Foran shook up his midfield midway through the second-half, introducing Jake Mulraney and Aaron Doran in place of Billy King and Iain Vigurs in an attempt to offer more threat from the flanks.
Both players showed early glimpses of promise, with Doran seeing a strike blocked by Wallace before Mulraney’s looping effort from the edge of the box was well gathered by Foderingham.
Foran’s final throw of the dice was to attempt what secured his side a point against Celtic last month, bringing on Alex Fisher in place of Doumbouya, but this time he passed up an excellent chance to level four minutes from time when he was picked out superbly by Doran’s cross, but screwed his effort wide.