Former Scotland striker Billy Dodds hailed his Inverness match-winner Shane Sutherland after the forward made all the difference in day one at Arbroath.
Now in his second spell at the club, the 30-year-old former Peterhead and Elgin City hitman cashed in on a rare Arbroath error to deliver a deadly finish to seal a 1-0 victory at Gayfield.
The vocal Caley Thistle fans were enjoying this post-lockdown trip beside the North Sea, although at 0-0 they were urging Dodds to hand Billy Mckay his third debut for the club. The ‘He scores when he wants’ chant made a return from the terracing.
Freed by Ross County in May, and now injury-free, former Northern Ireland internationalist Mckay is ICT’s fourth highest scorer ever, bagging 65 goals in 157 outings.
He’s hungry to score goals to help Caley Thistle back to the Premiership and, despite playing for County for the past four years, he remains a favourite with the fans.
With Arbroath more than holding their own and Manny Duku’s headed goal being flagged for offside, the Inverness fans turned up the volume for Mckay to come off the bench after warming up at their end.
However, Sutherland added to his goal in the 2-2 draw with Stirling Albion in the Premier Sports Cup, with a superb second half goal, breaking clear with the ball and guiding it over keeper Derek Gaston.
It was a reminder, as if Dodds needed it, that he can be the main striker at the club. Like Mckay, he’s back and determined to score goals in the Championship.
Mckay did come on as a second half sub, but Sutherland had already netted the goal which eventually clinched the win.
Head coach Dodds said: “It was a great finish. It was calm and composed.
“I don’t know if I was so calm and composed on the sidelines because we missed chances. Shane had one in the first half when it was cleared off the line and Manny Duku done well. We just needed something, to take a chance and give us a boost.
“Shane hit it so well. He had time to think about it, but he took it brilliantly.”
Hanging on for the victory
After that goal, Arbroath threw the kitchen sink at Caley Thistle and it took courageous defending from the men in white, and a little luck, to keep Dick Campbell’s part-timers out.
Inverness have come unstuck here many a time. Last season, they drew and two years ago they lost 3-0, so even a 1-0 victory is gratefully accepted.
Dodds added: “Arbroath have a brilliant home record and you can see why. If they’re not at it or losing then Dick will change it and throw on men to really go for it.
“That’s what he did. It reminded me of Jimmy Calderwood’s Aberdeen team where they threw players on and put you under the cosh. But we really did hang in there and showed a gritty side to us, which is what I want.”
Sutherland had the best Caley Jags chance in the first half when his net-bound shot was cleared off the line by Scott Stewart.
For Arbroath, their main threat came from Joel Nouble, who came in for Dale Hilson, who dropped to the bench.
Nouble, who had already gone close with a header, went on a searing run down the right and watched as his drive flashed just beyond the left post, with ICT keeper Mark Ridgers diving full stretch.
Goal came…then ICT weathered storm
In the second half, Duku had the away fans celebrating, but only briefly, when he nodded home a Reece McAlear cross, but it was ruled offside.
However, a loose header from Harrison Clark was gathered by Sutherland, he burst through on goal and steered the ball into the net.
From that point, the hosts were on top and Dodds’ team were more than happy to hear the final whistle for a result well earned by the Highlanders.
ARBROATH (4-4-2): Gaston 6, Stewart 7 (Swankie 81), Colin Hamilton 7, Little 6, O’Brien 6, Low 6, McKenna 6, Clark 6 (Craigen 78), Donnelly 6, Nouble 7, Linn 7 (Hilson 62). Subs not used: Antell (GK), Paterson, Chris Hamilton.
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1): Ridgers 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Carson 6, Sutherland 7, MacGregor 6 (Mckay 78), Walsh 7 (Harper 73), Broadfoot 6, Allardice 7, Duku 6 (Hyde 85), McAlear 6. Subs not used: Mackay (GK), Duffy, Jamieson, McDonald.
REFEREE: David Dickinson 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Scott Allardice.