Caley Thistle were knocked off the top of the Championship after a 1-0 loss at home to Arbroath allowed Kilmarnock to hit the summit.
Michael McKenna’s free-kick fooled Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers early in the second half to earn the visitors a win to move them third, four points behind the leaders.
Killie’s 1-0 derby win at Ayr moved them into first place on goals scored, level on points with ICT.
Before a ball was kicked, the Caledonian Stadium observed a minute’s silence in tribute to former Scotland and Rangers manager Walter Smith, whose death at the age of 73 was confirmed earlier today.
ICT began season with Gayfield win
These teams met on the opening day of the season on July 31 when it took a smash and grab goal from Shane Sutherland to earn ICT a 1-0 win against Dick Campbell’s outfit who did everything but score.
That win has, in some ways, set the tone for the Caley Jags, who kicked off the night three points ahead of Kilmarnock after their 1-1 comeback draw with 10-man Raith Rovers at the weekend.
Arbroath, who at one stage on Saturday afternoon were second in the table, drew 1-1 at home to Ayr United and slipped to fifth spot, seven points away from ICT but still within striking distance.
Changes led to shake-up in attack
Home head coach Billy Dodds made three changes from their Kirkcaldy contest, with Aaron Doran, Tom Walsh and Manny Duku replacing Michael Gardyne, Wallace Duffy and Shane Sutherland.
In a departure from the norm, it meant a two-pronged attack with Billy Mckay supported by Duku.
Midfielder Scott Allardice shifted into the right-back in the absence of David Carson, who is on bereavement leave.
For Arbroath, in came defender Chris Hamilton for Jason Thomson.
ICT, historically, have a strong record against the Red Litchies, losing only seven of the 36 fixtures, the last of which was a 1-0 win here at the Caledonian Stadium, with current forward Luke Donnelly scoring the only goal in December 2019.
However, the division’s only part-timers play with freedom and structure, with only Partick Thistle outscoring their tally of 18 after the first 10 matches this term.
Players battle through wind and rain
Arbroath had the first attempt at goal amid the wind and drizzle when McKenna whipped the ball just over the top.
Duku had an outrageous attempt at goal from an acute angle on 14 minutes when he latched on to a Walsh pass, but the shot cleared the crossbar by a whisker.
The Angus team were tidy, smart and dangerous as they pinned ICT back for a spell.
Defender Robbie Deas sparked a move and almost scored from it. He was tripped by McKenna and, when Doran delivered the free-kick, Deas just failed to connect under pressure from a trio of opponents.
Walsh was in the mood and he cleverly fed play to Doran and the wide midfielder flashed a shot just off target on 38 minutes.
Free-kick goal shocks Caley Jags
Walsh continued to threaten after the break and, from his corner, Roddy MacGregor’s sweeping shot was gratefully held by keeper Derek Gaston.
At the other end, Mark Ridgers got down quickly to block a grounder from the ever-dangerous on-loan Livingston forward Joel Nouble.
The visitors took the lead on 54 minutes with a goal in unusual circumstances, aided no doubt by the gusts.
Kirk Broadfoot felled McKenna and the Arbroath midfielder’s free-kick crashed past Ridgers into the net via the underside of the bar to the delight of the hardy travelling fans. It was McKenna’s eight goal of the season, making him the league’s top scorer.
It was a hammer blow for the leaders and it took a Ridgers stop moments later to keep out a header from Ricky Little as Campbell’s team sought a killer second.
Subs Gardyne, Lewis Jamieson and Reece McAlear could not influence the match enough to create an equaliser and it was a first home loss of the campaign for Billy Dodds’ side.
ICT head to Glasgow on Saturday to take on Ian McCall’s Partick Thistle, who drew 0-0 at Morton.
Arbroath host winless Dunfermline Athletic, who drew 1-1 in their derby against Raith Rovers this evening.
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2): Ridgers 6, Welsh 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Mckay, Doran 7 (Gardyne 61), MacGregor 6 (McAlear 71), Walsh 7, Broadfoot 6, Allardice 6, Duku 6 (Jamieson 61). Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Duffy, Sutherland, McDonald.
ARBROATH (4-4-2): Gaston 6, Colin Hamilton 6, Little 6, O’Brien 6, McKenna 7, Stewart 6 (Gold 82), Donnelly 6 (Craigen 71), Clark 6, Nouble 7, Chris Hamilton 6, Dowds 6 (Hilson 71). Subs not used: Antell (GK), Swankie, Linn, Henderson.
Referee: Craig Napier.
Man of the match: Michael McKenna.