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Caley Thistle 2-0 Queen of the South: Six of the best and no bullet wounds

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There was a moment, even amid the beaming sunshine and Caley Thistle’s complete dominance, when dark fatalism kicked in.

More than a few seasoned observers in the stands may have felt something was about to go wrong.

All evidence pointed to the comfortable victory that was duly delivered. Only the brilliance of young Rangers loanee goalkeeper Robby McCrorie denied the hosts a healthier winning margin.

But memories of the last couple of seasons somehow stoked a niggling pessimism during the second half.

This is a Caley Thistle team that, not so long ago, made an art form of shooting itself in the foot from winning situations.

The fact they didn’t offers huge encouragement for what lies ahead.

This was a sixth win from six in Inverness this season across all competitions, keeping John Robertson’s increasingly watchable side tucked in just behind Dundee United and Ayr in the title race.

The Doonhamers took four points from six at the Caledonian Stadium last term, but never truly looked capable of taking one this time around.

There was a touch of flamboyance about the hosts’ play, that little bit of swagger that defender Coll Donaldson talked about

Above all, they looked like a team enjoying themselves on the pristine playing surface.

“That comes with confidence,” manager Robertson asserted. “We’ve a pitch that suits passing sides and our boys are revelling in it. They knock it about and we encourage them to pass it and play around people.

“There was a lot of good football that never really quite got the end product it deserved. That’s what we have to work on this week.

“We need to keep passing the ball, keep being brave and keep playing through teams and around the corners and then add some real finishing power.

“We’ve got the guys to do it and, if we do, we won’t be far away.”

Sean Welsh and Tom Walsh struck in quick succession in the first half, but the Highlanders couldn’t quite find that killer third goal.

ICT’s Sean Welsh celebrates after scoring the opening goal.

A confident start, full of energy and belief, was rewarded after 15 minutes.

A Tom Walsh cross from the right was knocked back by Jordan White to Sean Welsh, 20 yards out, square on goal and he sent a low, powerful shot tearing past on-loan McCrorie.

Caley Thistle’s second came just three minutes later after McCrorie parried a Shaun Rooney attempt and Walsh reacted quickly to blast into the net from 12 yards.

McCrorie had to work hard to keep the margin at only two before the break, parrying a Walsh left-foot strike to safety amid heavy pressure.

The Dumfries side created very little in response, with Faissal El Bahktaoui on one occasion racing in behind the home defence but firing wildly off target as keeper Mark Ridgers came out to close him down.

On another occasion, later in the first half, veteran Stephen Dobbie, clearly frustrated by the course of events, tried a speculative 25-yard blast that veered off the head of his own team-mate Connor Murray and wide.

But before the break Caley Thistle were unlucky again when Lewis Kidd slid recklessly into Whyte to commit a foul in a dangerous position just outside the box.

Welsh lined up the free kick and sent a dipping attempt hurtling towards the top corner of the net only to be thwarted by another parry from the excellent McCrorie. Queens’ woes continued into the second half as home defender Jamie McCart’s header struck the top of the bar three minutes after the restart.

But although home momentum was mostly steady in the face of the visiting team, faltering only on rare occasions, the pressure failed to deliver a decisive third goal.

That was a slight negative manager Robertson was more than aware of.

He said: “They were two really good finishes and, with the form young Robbie McCrorie was in, they had to be good finishes.

“He had three or four superb saves. The third goal would have made it a comfortable afternoon and he stopped that.”

‘But Inverness have good players, haven’t they?’

Queens manager Allan Johnston felt Caley Thistle’s ruthlessness in taking chances was the key.

Johnston made the observation even though Caley Thistle counterpart John Robertson had lamented the exact opposite.

The Dumfries side had young Rangers loanee goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie to thank for keeping the margin of defeat down to two goals.

Relatively speaking, though, Johnston felt the hosts had been far sharper in front of goal.

He said: “There was nothing in the game at the outset and, in the first half, we passed the ball well.

“I don’t think there was much between the teams, but Inverness were a lot more clinical and took their chances when they came along.

“Obviously, we’ve got to stop shots at the edge of the box – we can’t allow people to have a free shot. That was the difference – and that first goal is massive.

“In the second half we needed to open up a wee bit and be more direct.

“But Inverness have good players, haven’t they? They are a big team and cause all sorts of problems with their height and their presence at set-pieces.”

Supporter’s view: Too tall an order for a small team

By David Sutherland

It was another useful three points for Caley Thistle that for a while looked like might lift them into second place until Dundee United’s late comeback.

It was a relatively straightforward home win but they may have been a little disappointed the margin of victory was not greater.

The damage was done in the first half with two fine goals. A low Sean Welsh strike set them on their way before Tom Walsh doubled the advantage with another good looking goal.

Caley Thistle looked to kill the game off quickly in the second half.

They had a couple of good opportunities but it never happened and Inverness slowly allowed Queen of the South back into the game.

The Doonhamers created a couple of good chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.

The first thing that strikes you about Queens is how small a team they are. They lack physical presence but do strike the ball about well.

For too much of the afternoon, they struggled to convert their attractive passing moves into clear-cut chances.

They saved their Championship status last term via the play-offs and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves in a similar situation again.

Another side with problems, Partick, come to Inverness on Saturday probably with a new manager. Who it is, and whether he makes an instant impact adds to the interest.