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Caley Thistle beaten by Kyle Lafferty strike at Kilmarnock to dip to third in Championship

Kilmarnock's Brian Haunstrup tries to find an opening.
Kilmarnock's Brian Haunstrup tries to find an opening.

Kyle Lafferty’s early goal saw Kilmarnock edge past Caley Thistle 1-0 as they replaced the Highlanders in second spot in the Championship.

High winds which battered the east coast led to the Arbroath v Partick game being postponed, allowing ICT the chance to draw level on points with the league leaders from Angus.

However, this defeat – only their second league loss away from home this term – puts them two points behind their weekend hosts, having played one match more.

The Highlanders seeking their first victory since thumping Morton 6-1 last month, were on the back of four successive draws.

Inverness have twice beaten Killie 1-0 this season when Tommy Wright was in charge.

First home league game for McInnes

Former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes took over earlier this month and, since then, the side picked up four points from games against Queen of the South and Partick Thistle.

Last weekend, they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup, losing 2-1 after extra-time against Premiership visitors Dundee United.

Inverness head coach Billy Dodds.

McInnes made two changes from that tie, with Lee Hodson and Lafferty in for Chris Stokes and Blair Alston.

One week on from the 1-1 draw at Dunfermline, ICT head coach Billy Dodds handed starts to on-loan duo Sam Pearson and Joe Chalmers, with defender Wallace Duffy coming in for injured stopper Danny Devine.

Lafferty back amid the goals for Killie

Killie began on the front foot, putting pressure on as soon as possession was won, so much so a foul by Robbie Deas on former ICT winger Daniel Mackay, who is on loan from Hibs, saw him booked after just 70 seconds.

Chalmers sought an opening for Inverness as we weaved into the box, but was crowed out by blue and white shirts.

However, the energy and volume inside Rugby Park rose to possibly its highest levels this season when the hosts scored in the ninth minute.

Kyle Lafferty celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0.

A darting run down the right by Mackay ended with him whipping a cross into the box and Lafferty crashed a powerful shot beyond Mark Ridgers into the net.

The Northern Irishman, who scored 13 goals in 13 matches for the club last season, rejoined in this window, with “unfinished business” to attend to. This was what he meant.

His confidence was evident once more soon after that when he went from goal when positioned just inside his half, but the effort finished a good bit wide.

ICT were getting no change from the Killie back-line, but Pearson and Chalmers seemed the likeliest to do so.

On 24 minutes, another fast attack from Kilmarnock ended with captain Rory McKenzie shooting over from 10 yards when he got a sight of goal.

Walsh a whisker away from netting

Caley Thistle for their best opportunity to that point when Tom Walsh’s searing drive was to be pawed away by goalkeeper Zach Hemming. The corner was gathered by Ridgers.

Tackles were flying in and former Rugby Park defender Kirk Broadfoot was also booked, with jeers ringing in his ears at every touch.

ICT were growing in belief as the first half drew to a close and a Walsh cross just spun away from Harper as he arrived at the back post. Encouraging signs from the visitors.

 

ICT’s Shane Sutherland and Jack Sander.

There was a let off for Inverness early in the second half when sub Euan Murray thought he’d scored when he netted from a Fraser Murray set-piece.

The celebrations ended though when referee Don Robertson disallowed it for a handball in the lead-up.

Ridgers was kept busy after that when he saved efforts from McKenzie and Fraser Murray to ensure his team had a chance.

Samuels pitched in for ICT debut

Austin Samuels, signed from Wolves yesterday, was handed his ICT debut just after the hour mark when he replaced Pearson.

Former Ross County forward Oli Shaw should have killed the contest with 20 minutes left as he was lined up for a shot, but after the first one was blocked, the second sliced wide of goal to the home fans’ frustration.

Caley Thistle pressed in the latter stages as the nerves began to shred in the home stands, but they could not find a leveller.

Inverness now face back-to-back home league games against Morton and Partick Thistle on January 5 and 9, with the latter having been postponed on Boxing Day due to Covid.

HOW THEY LINED UP

KILMARNOCK (4-4-2) – Hemming 6, Hodson 6, Sanders 6 (Euan Murray 46), Taylor 6, Haunstrup 6, McKenzie 7, Tait 6 (McGinn 88), Fraser Murray 6, Mackay 6 (Alston 73), Shaw 6, Lafferty 7 (Burke 68). Subs not used: Walker (GK), Waters, Armstrong, Polworth, Cameron.

CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1) – Ridgers 6, Duffy 6 (Nicolson 82), Broadfoot 6, Deas 6, Harper 6 (Carson 82), McAlear 7, Welsh 6, Walsh 6 (Hardy 46), Pearson 6 (Samuels 63), Chalmers 6, Sutherland 6 (Duku 87). Subs not used: Mackay (GK), Hyde.

REFEREE – Don Robertson.

ATTENDANCE – 4790.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Rory McKenzie.

 

 

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