There had been hard questions raised about Caley Thistle’s desire and craving for Championship success this season – justifiable questions, given recent results.
The loss of 11 points from a possible 15 in the last five league matches had punctured momentum and puzzled fans previously thrilled by winning habits.
There was also concern over how much the winter sickness bug tearing through the camp had weakened strength and resolve.
While this was no showcase in flair and free-flowing football, Saturday’s win was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The sight of players straining every sinew and putting bodies on the line with boundless energy provided an injection of fresh optimism for supporters.
Most strikingly, that desire married with high levels of organisation in a tweaked shape brought a return to defensive solidity.
Aaron Doran’s fine finish after 16 minutes provided the perfect start, but left a large stretch of match-time minutes in which to protect it. But protect it they did, and the sight of captain Carl Tremarco making heroic strides to meet an own goal-bound Jamie McCart header and nod to safety summed it all up.
By the end, it was as if Dundee – dominant in possession for good spells but rarely piercing in attack – had run dry on ideas and will.
A yawning 10-point gap on leaders Dundee United remains for Caley Jags and the Tannadice club’s spending power and squad strength, particularly at home, presents an intimidating barrier to Inverness title ambitions – but this is a club that in both past promotion wins overcame a big points disadvantage to take the title.
With December not yet upon us, there should be no great angst at the current standings, although it would have been heartening for all of a Caley Jags persuasion to leapfrog Dundee and move third, one point behind Ayr.
Robertson, back in the technical area after his own bout of illness, opted to play Charlie Trafford as the sole deep midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation. That allowed David Carson to beef up the midfield line in front of a four. Carson was immense, snapping at Dundee heels and breathing down necks for 90-plus minutes. His energy and enthusiasm seemed contagious.
“We decided to sacrifice the extra forward today because we felt we needed more energy in midfield,” manager Robertson said.
“Davie Carson was superb and did great for the goal. Our energy was good, we passed the ball well and our front three put in a hell of a shift, which made it easier for the midfield lads to pressurise Dundee.
“In the end we saw it out well, but we needed to. If you look at the games against the top two or three teams in the last few seasons, we’ve not won enough of them – we’ve not won any of them. It was important today we built on the clean sheet last week in the cup against Clyde and showed we can be more resolute.
“I thought we showed that today, the whole team. I thought our gameplan was right.”
The Dark Blues gained plenty of the ball but, far too often, they were granted it in harmless areas of the park. On rare occasions they did penetrate danger areas, there was always a home body at hand to make a block, clearance or save.
Crucially, Aaron Doran broke a 286-minute wait – since October 30 against Queen of the South – for a Caley Thistle goal with a fine finish in the 16th minute.
Carson showed great determination to win a strong challenge then get to the ball before it rolled out for a goal-kick.
The midfielder’s low cross left Doran with the tightest of angles to lift a shot past Connor Hazard at the far post, but the Irishman somehow managed it brilliantly.
Caley Thistle should have doubled the lead after 62 minutes as Trafford’s forward ball broke behind the away defence and the off-side flag stayed down for Doran. The Irishman had only the keeper to beat, but hesitated at the vital moment and saw keeper Hazard smother the ball at his feet.
Dundee blew a glorious chance to level with eight minutes left. A Josh Todd cross found Danny Johnson free in the six-yard box but the substitute stuck his volley wide.