Caley Thistle endured a frustrating afternoon from start to finish as they suffered a Championship setback against Alloa Athletic.
Inverness could have no complaints about the outcome, with Alloa sharper off the blocks and in the mood to punish the slack Highlanders.
It was a day which got off to the worst possible start for Caley Jags, with Lewis Toshney’s injury within the first minute setting the tone.
After going on to lose cheap first-half goals to Lee Connelly and Alan Trouten, Inverness could not claw their way back into the game as a creative spark eluded them.
Inverness struck late to defeat Morton on Tuesday, with the result a major boost for the Highlanders’ prospects of finishing second during a midweek card in which every other game ended goalless.
This time around Caley Jags could not capitalise on another card which produced four stalemates, cutting their lead in second place to two points.
John Robertson conceded his side got what they deserved.
He said: “I thought the better team won – Alloa were hungrier, sharper, quicker and more committed.
“We have seen their quality, it’s the sixth time we have played them. We were never at it as a team, and we never really did enough to get the goal that would have got us back in the game.
“We understood the significance of the game because our two rivals for second spot were playing each other.
“It’s worrying for us – we should have as much hunger, desire and belief to get out of this division as they have to stay in it.”
Caley Jags made two changes for the trip to Clackmannanshire, with Brad Mckay free of suspension and Aaron Doran also drafted in. Kevin McHattie and Roddy MacGregor were left on the bench.
The Highlanders were forced to make another change with little over a minute played, however, with Toshney worryingly flagging to the bench after suffering an early thigh strain, which prompted an early recall for McHattie.
The Wasps took the lead through a neatly worked move on 12 minutes, with Kevin O’Hara teeing up Scott Banks to deliver from the right to find Connelly, whose angled strike took a fortuitous deflection off Mckay to wrongfoot Mark Ridgers.
Inverness were close to a leveller on 21 minutes, only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Neil Parry. Charlie Trafford nodded Tom Walsh’s free-kick into the path of Jordan White who flicked goalwards, but his point-blank effort was thwarted by Parry.
It proved a crucial moment, with Alloa doubling their advantage on 29 minutes. Connelly was this time the provider with his free-kick from the left picking out Trouten, who was left unmarked to cushion a neat finish past Ridgers.
Robertson was unhappy with the lack of responsibility taken for Trouten’s free run, adding: “The annoying thing for me is I asked my players to be honest and tell me who was marking for the second goal, but not one of them had the honesty to step up and say it was him.
“That person will be found, but that showed the honesty we required was not there.”
The next goal after the interval was all-important, and the Highlanders had their own goalkeeper to thank for denying Alloa a third in the early stages of the second half, with Ridgers doing well to beat away a curling effort from on-loan Crystal Palace youngster Banks, who had shown fine footwork to carve out the opportunity.
Caley Jags had another let-off on 64 minutes when Ridgers could only parry a low Connelly effort from the edge of the box, with the ball falling to Trouten, who struck the post from an acute angle.
Inverness looked to pull one back, with White nodding over the bar from Walsh’s cross before seeing another header comfortably saved by Parry following Carl Tremarco’s delivery shortly afterwards.
Walsh flashed an effort just over but it was Alloa who continued to look more threatening, with Banks striking narrowly over and substitute Adam Brown striking the post in the dying stages.