Billy Dodds felt Roddy MacGregor’s wonder winner for Caley Thistle against Raith Rovers came as a result of the 19-year-old showing the right attitude to starting the day on the bench.
The Scotland under-21 attacking midfielder stepped from the sidelines in the second half and produced a cracking long-range strike to earn the Highlanders full points.
Following on from their 1-0 opening day win at Arbroath, the Inverness team are tucked in with Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock at the top of the Championship.
🗣️ "It was a wonder goal which won it."
ICTFC Head Coach Billy Dodds gives his thoughts following this afternoon's 1-0 win against Raith Rovers. pic.twitter.com/I6TaDZng2p
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) August 7, 2021
It was a tight affair as the Kirkcaldy team, a week on after losing a four-goal lead to draw with Hamilton, looked solid yet threatening at times too.
On a day when supporters shrugged off the downpours to return to the stadium for league action, MacGregor lashed home a 20-yarder to seal the victory.
Head coach Dodds, who wanted wingers Michael Gardyne and Tom Walsh to unlock the Rovers, told MacGregor the day before that he’d be left out and the explained the reason why.
He said: “Yes, he will have been disappointed to have been left out the team, but it was the right way of responding.
“I spoke to him on Friday and he was great. Although he was disappointed, he totally understood. He’s a real team player.
“Roddy’s strike was brilliant, tremendous. I just wanted him on for that wee bit of energy. He’s a top talent.
“It shows you how versatile he is. I am delighted for him. When I leave people out the team, I want them to respond. He showed a lot of energy when he came on.”
Rovers boss praises winner
Gutted Rovers boss John McGlynn admitted that one magic moment made all the difference.
He said: “It was a wonder strike that won the game. There was nothing it in. The one real bit of quality was that strike.
“We didn’t manage to get a strike like that in and they did. There was a lot of effort and commitment. I was disappointed for our guys, for everything they put in they got nothing out of it.”
Fans back for action at Inverness
Almost 1700 fans were back to support their sides, with a fair following up from Fife too. Most arrived drenched by the mid-afternoon downpours that continued most of the day.
It was a game of few clear-cut opportunities, but the one that mattered arrived with just 10 minutes left when Shane Sutherland and Manny Duku combined to tee MacGregor up for a rasping shot that gave keeper Jamie MacDonald no chance.
The closest ICT came early on was through a shot from on-loan Norwich City midfielder Reece McAlear when he met a corner from Tom Walsh.
Raith had two efforts from long-range from Ross Matthews and Dario Zanatta, but both had too much height to test Mark Ridgers in the home goal.
Michael Gardyne, who was back from suspension, then played a delicious ball on to Manny Duku, but the former Rovers man saw his effort from an acute angle deflected wide.
Raith almost cashed in on confusion between Kirk Broadfoot and Danny Devine when Matej Poplatnik nicked in, but Ridgers was there to deny him.
There were fewer sights at goal in the second half, but there was a big moment just before the winner when Ridgers raced out of his box and fouled substitute Ethan Varian. Referee Alan Muir opted for a yellow card for the keeper as fears were that it could have been red.
After MacGregor’s goal, Raith pushed on in a bid to level, but ICT stood strong for their second clean sheet in a row.
Ayr United next up for ICT
Next Sunday Rovers are in League Cup action at home to Aberdeen, while Caley Jags sit it out after their early exit.
Caley Thistle return to action in the Championship on August 21 when they host Ayr United.
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 7.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Gardyne.