Tonight’s Scottish Premiership play-off final against St Johnstone is Caley Thistle’s biggest game since their Scottish Cup final success at Hampden in 2015.
The dream of returning to the top flight could easily have ended on Friday night when St Johnstone raced into a two-goal lead in the opening 25 minutes.
Billy Dodds’ side were well off the pace and fortunate not to be trailing to an even greater margin by the interval.
The Caley Jags manager shuffled his pack and changed formation at the break and his team responded in style.
A stunning double from Reece McAlear, including an exquisite free-kick, has left the tie delicately poised ahead of this evening’s second leg in Perth.
The momentum is with Caley Thistle, while a nervy night awaits St Johnstone and the home support at McDiarmid Park.
The Perth Saints fans who made the journey to Caledonian Stadium voiced their dissatisfaction at full-time on Friday night.
It would be incredible for last season’s Scottish Cup and League Cup double winners to follow up the greatest season in the club’s history by being relegated to the Championship.
But the chance is there for Caley Thistle to inflict that misery on the Saints and seize their return to the top flight.
Callum Davidson’s men have won only one of their previous seven games – a scrappy 1-0 win against a struggling Aberdeen. ICT, by contrast, are unbeaten in seven.
Premiership play-off format need changed.
Caley Thistle are almost running on empty after a gruelling play-off schedule at the end of a long, hard campaign.
This season is another example of why the Premiership-play-off, tipped so heavily in favour of the top flight team, needs changed.
If Caley Thistle win tonight they will become the first team to do so having played in the third against fourth place quarter-final.
To have to play six matches to win promotion at the end of the season is a ridiculous scenario and the sooner it is changed to replicate the play-off format in the other divisions the better.
One final push is required and Caley Thistle will know if they make a strong start the home crowd will make their feelings known once again, which would heap even more pressure on Davidson’s players.
The Inverness side were relegated five years ago and this is the closest they have got to getting back to the top flight.
The plight of Dunfermline Athletic – demoted from the top table 10 years ago – shows how difficult it can be to get back to the big time.
One final push 👊🔴🔵
Get behind the boys in Perth this Monday if you can for our Premiership Play-Off 2nd Leg v St Johnstone
COME ON ICTFC 🔴🔵 pic.twitter.com/lqF60mC00n
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) May 21, 2022
The Pars will be playing in the third tier next season after suffering relegation this term with Caley Thistle’s Scottish Cup winning boss John Hughes at the helm.
But whatever happens in Perth this evening, Caley Thistle can take a huge amount of credit from their season.
An 11-game winless sequence from December to March piled the pressure on Dodds and his players and it looked like missing out on the play-offs was a real possibility after a fine start to the campaign.
But the Caley Jags rediscovered their form on March 12 with a 3-0 home win against Arbroath and haven’t looked back.
If they are to turn their promotion mission into reality, they can’t afford another sluggish start this evening.
It will take another massive effort but this is a great opportunity for Caley Thistle to get back to the top flight and they have to grasp it.