Caley Thistle rang the changes for the visit of Morton but were comfortable winners against the Greenock outfit for the second time in eight days.
Inverness viewed the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup visit of Ton as an ideal chance to freshen up their squad, making no fewer than eight switches from the side that ran out 5-0 winners on Championship duty the previous weekend.
Despite being an almost entirely different side there was no let-up in Caley Jags’ domination as they again bossed David Hopkin’s men.
The two-goal margin hardly did the gulf between the sides justice. Caley Jags triumphed through goals from Nikolay Todorov, Aaron Doran and Miles Storey, with forward Todorov missing the chance to extend the lead from the penalty spot.
John Sutton netted a late consolation for Ton that did little to take the shine off a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for the Highlanders.
Shaun Rooney, Aaron Doran and Coll Donaldson were the only players still in the side, as youngsters Cameron Harper and Roddy MacGregor were handed starts.
The changes were not limited to the field, with manager John Robertson handing the reins to coaches Scott Kellacher and Barry Wilson for the day.
Caley Jags placed strong emphasis on improving their strength in depth during their summer recruitment, and Kellacher feels this result was proof they are on the right track.
Kellacher said: “The boys that have got the jersey at the minute know they have to work hard. Something we have strived to get is a good squad, and we are starting to get there.
“We have players who can play in numerous positions. The competitive edge and the standard in training has gone right up.
“Boys are hungry to produce and make an impression on the manager.”
Inverness looked firmly on top from the start and went close on 16 minutes when Charlie Trafford went through on goal, only to see his effort deflected wide by Jack Baird.
Just when the game was crying out for a quality intervention, Todorov obliged with a stunning opener. After picking the ball up on the edge of the visitors’ box, the Bulgarian took aim with a strike that swerved beyond the reach of Sam Ramsbottom into the top-left corner.
It was no more than the hosts deserved and they came close to adding a second on the half hour mark when Sean Welsh saw his header from a Storey cross beaten away by Ramsbottom.
But Inverness had just a minute to wait for their second, with a mix up between Brian McLean and Ramsbottom allowing Doran to drill a low shot through the legs of the Morton goalkeeper.
It had been one-way traffic throughout the first half, with Ton’s only chance arriving on 40 minutes when Robbie Muirhead saw a low strike well claimed by Cammy Mackay after he evaded Coll Donaldson.
Caley Jags continued to dominate after the break and were rewarded with a third goal on 57 minutes. Welsh – in his first top team outing since March – released Storey down the inside right channel, and he cut inside before drilling home from an acute angle, with the ball going between Ramsbottom’s legs for a second time.
The goalkpeeper redeemed himself with a penalty save that denied Todorov a second goal on 75 minutes, after Trafford had been felled by McLean. Ton threatened a revival when Sutton prodded home Muirhead’s cross three minutes later, but it was Caley Jags who came closest to adding further to the scoresheet, with MacGregor thwarted from eight yards by Ramsbottom.
Inverness handed debuts to Matheus Machado and Lewis Hyde from the bench, and the integration of so many highly-regarded youngsters also pleased Kellacher.
He added: “It was brilliant to get the young boys involved. It was Roddy MacGregor’s first start and he grew into the game, while Cameron Harper looks as if he can play there no problem.
“They have been pushing for weeks and weeks. They train with us every day now, they push themselves to the limit and they don’t look out of place.”
Supporter’s view: Great chance for fans to see youngsters
By David Sutherland
When the draw was made for this round of the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup, I’m sure a trip to Inverness was not what Morton hoped for.
That feeling would probably have intensified after a hammering when the two teams met in the Championship just over a week ago. On a different day, in a different contest, with two very different line-ups perhaps their luck may have changed.
Well, it didn’t and once again Inverness were worthy winners. The result might suggest the game was closer but I don’t think it was.
The men from Greenock never looked like they were going to win and Caley Thistle always looked like progressing.
The home fans enjoyed seeing some of their club’s younger players.
Cameron Harper and Roddy MacGregor started while Matheus Machado and Lewis Hyde came off the bench. It’s good to see youth getting a chance and while these boys will still have a lot to learn, they are ready for the first team.
It was also good seeing Sean Welsh starting again. He played well but I was surprised he didn’t take the penalty.
With Dundee United and Ayr United among the teams going out of the competition, Caley Thistle will feel they have a good chance of lifting this cup once again.
Fans enjoy a run in any cup competition and, with an interesting list of unfamiliar teams still in the draw, who knows where the next round takes us.