John Robertson got exactly the response he demanded from his players as Caley Thistle strengthened their grip on second place in the Championship.
Inverness had fallen well below standard in their 1-0 defeat to Arbroath the previous weekend, prompting an angry response from the Caley Jags manager.
The trip to Dens Park presented a stiff challenge for the Highlanders to bounce back, with a victory for James McPake’s men enough to pull them level with Robertson’s second-placed side.
Inverness did not allow that scenario to come close to materialising. They were the infinitely better side and secured the victory.
Their dominant display was delivered thanks to first-half goals from Aaron Doran and James Keatings.
Although the 14-point gap behind runaway leaders Dundee United remains, Caley Jags are now four points clear of nearest challengers Ayr United, with six points now separating them from Dundee.
Robertson said: “The team talk was very easy. We asked them for a reaction to last week when we were horrendous, and we were the polar opposite. We were great, our movement was good, we scored two fantastic goals and really controlled the first half.
“Mark Ridgers had a couple of easy saves to make, but it was a really deserved win.
“I listened to Neil Harris at Cardiff City, who got beaten 6-1 by QPR. His comments resonated with me after the Arbroath game, when he said he didn’t recognise his team. That’s how I felt last week, but we showed what we are about this week. That’s how we have been for 95% of the season.”
Robertson had threatened to make changes following the lacklustre display against Arbroath the previous weekend, and the Caley Jags boss was true to his word. Jamie McCart, David Carson and Jordan White dropped to the bench, with skipper Carl Tremarco, James Vincent and Nikolay Todorov drafted in.
It was a welcome opportunity for Bulgarian forward, who was handed his first start since the 3-0 loss to Arbroath on November 9, and he was first to threaten with a header which looped over the bar from Miles Storey’s delivery.
It marked the beginning of a strong spell, with Tremarco heading another Storey delivery into the arms of Jack Hamilton, who was also alert to beat away Keatings’ free kick from a wide right angle.
Inverness were looking far more akin to their usual attacking selves, and Doran’s 17th minute opener came as no surprise. The goal stemmed from the fine vision of Kevin McHattie, whose long ball picked out Rooney down the right flank, with Doran meeting his square ball with a thumping 14-yard strike high past Hamilton.
The quick supply to Rooney and Storey down the right flank caused the home side all sorts of problems in the first half, with Robertson thrilled by the opener.
He added: “We saw from the video analysis that Sean Mackie and Paul McGowan tend to defend narrow, and if we could get the ball at our feet and go for the switch it was on.
“We talked about sometimes taking a chance and playing it blind – I don’t know if Kevin was blind or had X-ray vision because it was the ball of the season right on to Shaun Rooney’s toe. Most of our lads went to the front post, but he picked out Aaron and it’s a terrific finish.”
The breakthrough was no more than the visitors deserved, and Robertson’s men put themselves in a commanding position with a second goal just seven minutes later. It stemmed from Dundee’s own corner, with Rooney instigating an incisive breakaway with a through ball for Keatings, whose deft touch took him past Jordan Marshall and in on goal, before he tucked low past Hamilton.
Storey could have added a third before half-time, when he struck the side-netting. It proved Storey’s final action as he was taken off at half-time with a hamstring complaint, replaced by Brad Mckay in a tactical reshuffle which saw Rooney spend the second half on the right wing.