Timing is everything in football and Caley Thistle picked the perfect day to find their winning form.
Saturday’s impressive 3-0 home victory against Arbroath, who would have returned to top spot had they won, ended a three-month wait for a win and, vitally, reminded people that the quality remains within their ranks.
Not since sweeping Morton away 6-1 at Cappielow in mid-December had Billy Dodds’ players savoured a win, but they certainly will have enjoyed this one.
That said, the message loud and clear afterwards was this was only one success, they need to build upon it now when they go to Raith Rovers on Saturday.
Caley Jags enjoyed manner of victory
Dodds felt the early double and hard work thereafter allowed his players to relish the occasion, as did the fans, who had been frustrated all winter.
He said: “I think you could see by the end that we were enjoying the ball.
“When you’re not winning games it’s quite hard to take the ball and be brave, and I thought we took it.
“By the end, when we were 3–0 up, we really enjoyed passing the ball, but to get to that they had to work their socks off.
“We did that, took our chances, put our bodies on the line a few times to block them, we got away with one that hit the post and we went on to enjoy the game, so I thought we earned the three points.”
Frustration for out-classed Arbroath
Arbroath, who were nudged from first place by Kilmarnock’s 3-1 Friday derby win at Ayr, had won at the Caledonian Stadium earlier in the season.
Inverness began the campaign by winning 1-0 at Gayfield and Dick Campbell’s side have not lost on home turf since in the league.
Campbell, who cut a frustrated figure for much of the afternoon, was sent to the stand in the second half, apparently for coming out of his technical area.
However, it was a stunning start to this contest which will have annoyed the Arbroath manager, whose side have already secured the club’s best-ever position.
They’re also the first part-time side to remain in tier two for three successive campaigns.
They deserve every bit of credit they’ve been given and with home matches against Ayr United and Raith to come, you’d be foolish to say they won’t give Kilmarnock a genuine run for their money.
This was just not their day as goals from Shane Sutherland, Reece McAlear and Billy Mckay left them floored, especially as they raced into a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes.
Sutherland gets the ball rolling
The opener arrived after just five minutes when Aaron Doran, who was lively from the off, whipped in a superb corner and Sutherland knocked the ball over the line after Arbroath failed to clear their lines.
The Angus side were just finding their feet when they were hit for a second goal and it was the pick of the bunch.
A sweeping attack down the right saw Doran and Carson exchange passes and the latter lined up on-loan Norwich City midfielder McAlear and he swept the ball past goalkeeper Derek Gaston.
As expected, Arbroath tried to respond and 13-goal joint-top scorer in this league, Michael McKenna, saw his low shot bounce off the post.
Inverness stood up to their rivals’ advances and were comfortable 2-0 leaders at the break.
Mckay completes three-goal victory
Campbell irked referee Euan Anderson one time too many, having been yellow-carded in the first half, and he was sent to the stand early in the second period.
Arbroath were appealing for Doran to be sent off when he felled Jack Hamilton not long after picking up a booking. The ICT wide player was soon replaced by Cammy Harper.
The crucial third goal, which ensured there would be no way back for the Red Lichties, came on 68 minutes when Sutherland swept the ball through for Mckay and the striker finished well for his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2) – Mackay 6, Welsh 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Carson 6, Mckay 6 (Pearson 84), Doran 7 (Harper 59), Sutherland 7, Broadfoot 6 (Duffy 59), Hardy 6 (Walsh 72), McAlear 7. Subs not used: Ridgers (GK), Duffy, Harper, Chalmers, Samuels, Hyde.
ARBROATH (4-1-4-1) – Gaston 6, Thomson 6, Colin Hamilton 6, Little 6, O’Brien 6, Gold 6 (Low 68), McKenna 7 (Linn 68), Stewart 6 (Craigen 68), Chris Hamilton 6 (Ford 75), Wighton 6 (Bakare 75), Jack Hamilton 6. Subs not used: Antell (GK), Hilson, Donnelly.
Referee – Euan Anderson.
Attendance – 2149.
Man of the match – Shane Sutherland.