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Caley Thistle head coach Billy Dodds won’t be talking titles after taking top spot

Caley Thistle head coach Billy Dodds.
Caley Thistle head coach Billy Dodds.

Billy Dodds is refusing to shout to the rooftops about his Caley Thistle team’s chances of winning the Championship after knocking Kilmarnock off top spot.

A wonderful searing early winner from Michael Gardyne made it four successive 1-0 victories, ensuring this was the perfect start to the league season after bowing tamely out of the Premier Sports Cup.

After taking care of Arbroath, Raith Rovers and Ayr United by a solitary goal, this was a test alone against the hot favourites to go right back up after 28 years of being in the top-flight.

Of course, the Championship season is only 360 minutes old for ICT. But winning away to Killie, who had won their first three fixtures too was an early statement of intent.

Caley Thistle midfielder Scott Allardice, left, in action against Kilmarnock’s Blair Alston.

However, head coach Dodds was keen to play down the significance of Saturday’s well-measured victory.

He said: “I am not going to say we’re competing for the title. This is a hard division. We have started well, but if we start we’re going to do this or that or win the title it would be the wrong thing to say.

“We’ve made a good start and we’ve beaten a top team in Kilmarnock. We’ve done it well and been solid.

“We deserved our victory, but that’s as far as it goes and we go back to work and we go again. We won’t get caught into predictions.”

Wright felt Killie lacked quality

Killie manager Tommy Wright, meanwhile, was disappointed that his players let their levels drop too much, which proved costly for the hosts.

He said: “The overall performance was not what we wanted and obviously not the result we wanted.

Kilmarnock manager Tommy Wright, left, with ICT head coach Billy Dodds.

“The goal was all too easy. We had an opportunity to clear it and we should be doing better to defend it. It was loose. We were in good possession and we gave the ball away cheaply and that’s what we did all afternoon.

“There was a lack of quality in our passing. It wasn’t sharp and we had too many touches. It allowed Inverness to press it and make it difficult. We’ve only ourselves to blame because it was not to the standard that we’ve set in recent weeks.”

Swift attack led to early winner

The decisive moment came from a quick Inverness counter-attack. Roddy MacGregor fed the ball to Shane Sutherland, who in turn passed to Gardyne, who guided a superb shot past Zach Hemming into the net.

Inverness players celebrate Michael Gardyne’s goal.

Killie, as you’d expect, came right back at the Highlanders, who were getting too caught up for a spell in conceding cheap free-kicks. Danny Devine and Sutherland were booked in the first half for doing so.

However, when it mattered, they were defending stoutly and keeper Mark Ridgers, who kept his 60th clean sheet here, was in the right place to deny Killie when they threatened.

Fresh from signing a contract extension, Ridgers saved from Blair Alston and Innes Cameron and was well supported by his ever-alert team-mates.

MacGregor, in for his second successive start, tried his luck from an angle and range not too dissimilar to Gardyne’s, but he couldn’t hit the target after neat link-up work on the edge of the box involving Sutherland and Tom Walsh.

Killie couldn’t break down solid ICT

In the second half, Kilmarnock were growing ever more frustrated by their own inability to get through their pink-shirted opponents.

It was down to hard work from Inverness as they chased every ball, kept their shape superbly and looked for moments to spring an attack.

Although Killie had the bulk of the ball, Caley Thistle were always a danger.

Sutherland, substitute Aaron Doran and David Carson all had chances to kill the game off, but the Caley Jags ran out deserved winners.

Celebrations from Inverness CT players at full-time.

This coming Saturday, there will be a selection shake-up for the visit of Highland League high-flyers Buckie Thistle in the SPFL Trust Trophy.

Then seven days later, Partick Thistle, who are second in the table following their 3-0 win over Morton, head to the Caledonian Stadium for what should be another cracking league contest.

KILMARNOCK: Hemming 6, Naismith 6, Euan Murray 6, McGowan 6, Haunstrup 6, McGinn 6, Alston 7, Burke 6, McKenzie 7 (Fraser Murray 63), Polworth 6 (Armstrong 79), Robinson 4 (Cameron 30). Subs not used: Walker (GK), Sanders, Waters, Lyon.

CALEY THISTLE: Ridgers 7, Deas 6, Devine 6, Gardyne 7, Carson 6, Sutherland 6 (Mckay 87), MacGregor 6, Walsh 6 (Doran 70), Broadfoot 5, Allardice 6, Duku 5 (Welsh 61). Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Harper, Jamieson, McAlear.

Referee: Euan Anderson 6.

Man of the match: Michael Gardyne.

Attendance: 5004.