Failure to kill off opponents when on top came back to bite Caley Thistle again as they crashed to a 2-1 Championship defeat against Dunfermline Athletic.
This was a massive result for the Fifers, who just the day before made ex-Inverness boss John Hughes their new manager, replacing Peter Grant.
Although Greg Shields and Steven Whittaker took the team, there’s little doubt the presence of Hughes, who led ICT to the Scottish Cup in 2015, sparked the Pars into life as they posted their first win of the season and their first away league victory for more than a year.
It hauled the basement side to within two points of Queen of the South and Morton, while pushing ICT down to third, one point behind Raith Rovers and four points adrift of pace-setters Kilmarnock.
Wins hard to come by for Caley Jags
It’s now no wins in five for Caley Thistle and just three wins in 10 overall and that includes their SPFL Trust Trophy win at Elgin City.
For the second week running, an interval lead vanished. They led 2-1 at Ayr United and drew 2-2, but this was more painful.
A mixture of illness and injury led to Manny Duku, Shane Sutherland, Sean Welsh and Wallace Duffy being missing on Saturday, but there was a welcome return to full-back David Carson, who tasted a rare defeat.
Head coach Billy Dodds was watching on at home due to illness and he’d have been happy enough with the first half.
The key moment of the opening 45 minutes arrived at the midway point as Billy Mckay was on hand to knock the ball past Owain Fon Williams after Michael Gardyne’s long-range shot struck the post.
The opener followed a lot of positive play from ICT, with Mckay and Aaron Doran going close before that.
Winless Dunfermline were not at the races, but they joined the contest for the last 10 minutes of the first half, with a fine save from Mark Ridgers keeping out Rhys Breen then Danny Devine blocked Mark Connolly’s follow-up.
Dunfermline Athletic strike back
Encouraged by their improvement, Dunfermline, who drew with Inverness earlier this season, sensed this match was alive.
And they drew level on 51 minutes when they broke up the park and from an Aaron Comrie cross, Devine was unlucky to divert the ball past his own keeper against his old club.
The travelling supporters have a sense of humour at least, despite their position. ‘We’re Going to Win the league’ was their next song of choice, raising smiles even in the home stands.
Yet, there was soon frustration for Caley Thistle as a set-back turned into a damaging position.
Out of nothing it seemed, my star man Dom Thomas picked up play, worked his way into the box and guided a wonderful shot high beyond Mark Ridgers into the net.
Delight for Dunfermline, but anguish for Inverness.
Reece McAlear, in a rare start, almost replied moments later, but the ball flew wide.
There was a late flurry from Caley Thistle, but they fell short once again.
Scrappy victory will do in Dumfries
First-team coach Barry Wilson, who took on post-match duties, admits the hosts faded in the second half as the Pars upped their game and got their goals.
He said: “The players were made well aware at half-time we needed to go out and play the way we did in the first half, dictate the tempo and have our midfield dominate their midfield.
“We didn’t make the same passes or have the same zest about our passing in the second half until we were pushing at the end.”
On Friday, Caley Thistle can make a move on their rivals by winning at Queen of the South.
Wilson knows the importance of returning to winning ways.
e added: “We are out of that winning mentality at the minute and we need to get back into it as soon as possible, whether it’s a scrappy 1-0 or 2-1 – whatever it is.
“We need to start putting three points on the board. That’s no wins in five and we must sort that as soon as possible. Friday can’t come soon enough.”
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2): Ridgers 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Gardyne 6, Carson 6 (McDonald 80), Mckay 6, Doran 6, Walsh 6 (MacGregor 67), Broadfoot 6, Allardice 6, McAlear 6 (Jamieson 67). Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Harper.
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Fon Williams 6, Comrie 6, Edwards 6, MacDonald 6, O’Hara 6, Breen 6 (Graham 73), McCann 6 (Dow 84), Dorrans 6, Thomas 7, Todd 6 (Pybus 61), Connolly 6. Subs not used: Mehmet (GK), Wighton, Todorov, Allan.
Referee: Grant Irvine.
Man of the match: Dom Thomas.