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Roddy MacGregor strikes in style as Caley Thistle edge past Raith Rovers

Roddy MacGregor celebrates his winner for Caley Thistle.
Roddy MacGregor celebrates his winner for Caley Thistle.

A rocket of a winner from Roddy MacGregor earned Caley Thistle a hard-fought 1-0 Championship victory against Raith Rovers.

It was a brilliant strike on a horrible day when drenched 1675 fans made their league return to the Caledonian Stadium as restrictions are eased.

The victory keeps Caley Thistle joint top of the table after the first two matches, alongside Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock.

It was a contest which had its moments, but neither team could find the killer touch to earn three points on the second weekend of the league season.

Rovers blew a four-goal lead last week in their opener against Hamilton to draw 4-4, while ICT began the campaign with a 1-0 win at Arbroath.

Danny Devine and Matej Poplatnik battle for the ball.

There was just one change for the Highlanders, with Michael Gardyne back from suspension replacing Roddy MacGregor in the starting 11.

The visitors had Tom Lang and Ross Matthews promoted to their starting team in place of Brad Spencer and Lewis Vaughan.

These teams, who are joint Challenge Cup holders, could not be split last term, with one win apiece and two draws, including a 3-3 Kirkcaldy thriller in November.

Rovers did finish two places and seven points head of Caley Jags by the end of play last term.

Raith’s Reghan Tumilty and Manny Duku compete for the ball.

There was one early corner for each side, with captain Kyle Benedictus seeing his shot deflected wide for Raith before a well-defended free-kick from ICT going out of play. However, neither team was able to cash in.

Caley Thistle had the best opportunity of the opening 15 minutes as midfielder Reece McAlear flashed a drive past the post when he connected with the ball from a Tom Walsh corner. His appeals for a deflection though were waved clear by referee Alan Muir.

It was a tight affair, with engaging but not sparkling football, no doubt the conditions were having an impact in that regards.

Caley Thistle’s Tom Walsh competes alongside Raith’s Matej Poplatnik.

ICT almost got their noses in front when, from a David Carson ball into the box, it just wouldn’t fall kindly enough for Duku to have a pop against his former club.

Raith defender Liam Dick was booked on 25 minutes when he hauled down Duku as the powerful forward was advancing towards the box.

McAlear’s 25-yard free-kick from that moment was comfortably held by Jamie MacDonald.

At the other end, Matthews was not far off target as his swerver from 25 yards flew over Mark Ridgers’ crossbar before Dario Zanatta also had too much height from his long-ranger.

The match needed a moment of magic and Gardyne provided it in the form of a deft pass on to Duku in the box.

However, the striker’s shot was blocked by Christophe Berra as it ran past the right post from a tight angle.

Just before the break, Rovers almost punished hesitation at the back as Matej Poplatnik nipped in to shoot, but Ridgers blocked and cleared it.

Then Danny Devine was needed to put an Aidan Connolly cross behind for a corner, which was mopped up by the hosts.

There was still time for one more chance before half-time as Gardyne’s cross from the left was met by Walsh, who was not too far off from hitting the target.

ICT began the second half on the front foot and Shane Sutherland, the match-winner last week, drew a save from MacDonald.

It was nip and tuck for a large spell after that until the 64th minute when Sutherland picked out Duku and it took a fine stop from MacDonald to keep his shot out.

The former Rovers man then forced another stop from the keeper when he was on target from a 25-yard free-kick.

The Fifers were still dangerous though and Benedictus flashed a drive wide of the left post after finding a gap to cut in from on the right.

Ridgers was booked when he raced out of his box and brought down the in-rushing substitute Ethan Varion.

The winner came on 81 minutes when Duku laid the ball on for sub MacGregor and he unleashed an unstoppable shot high into the net from 20 yards.

Roddy MacGregor strikes his wonderful winner for Caley Thistle against Raith Rovers.

Rovers pressed hard for a leveller, but ICT held firm to take the points.

Caley Thistle are not in action next weekend due to them being out of the League Cup which plays out in the first knockout stages.

Raith Rovers will play Aberdeen at home in the cup next Sunday.

CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1): Ridgers 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Gardyne 7, Carson 6, Sutherland 6, Walsh 6 (Doran 81), Broadfoot 6, Allardice 6, Duku 6 (Hyde 88), McAlear 6 (MacGregor 63). Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Harper, Mckay, Jamieson.

RAITH ROVERS (4-4-1-1): MacDonald 6, Tumilty 6, Dick 6, Berra 6, Benedictus 7, Connolly 7, Matthews 6, Zanatta 6 (Keatings 85), Lang 6, Tait 6 (Riley-Snow 72), Poplatnik 6 (Varian 66). Subs not used: Thomson (GK), McKay, Fotheringham, Arnott.

REFEREE: Alan Muir.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Gardyne.

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