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ANALYSIS: Caley Thistle must build on promotion push that went to the wire

Inverness head coach Billy Dodds applauds the fans.
Inverness head coach Billy Dodds applauds the fans.

Caley Thistle have never come closer to regaining top-flight status during their now five-year stay in the Championship.

Billy Dodds’ men had the upper hand in the first half, against what appeared to be an increasingly nerve-ridden St Johnstone side.

Saints emerged after the break with fresh purpose however, with quickfire goals from Stevie May and Cammy MacPherson putting them firmly in command.

By the time Saints added further goals through Callum Hendry and Shaun Rooney, Caley Jags had committed the bulk of their bodies forward in a desperate search for a lifeline.

Despite the heavy end scoreline it is hard to escape the feeling of so close, yet so far for Inverness.

Stevie May nets St Johnstone’s first goal against Inverness.

That in itself will only serve to add to the pain of falling at the final hurdle, however it is also a sign they are firmly on the right track.

The start of next season will feel like a long way off, however Caley Jags must take heart from how close they took their promotion bid despite so many factors conspiring against them.

The high demand for away tickets prompted Inverness to request an increased allocation on the morning of the game, with an estimated 2,000 visiting supporters making the trip to Perth.

Fresh wave of enthusiasm

Inverness will hope the drama of the play-off push will have sparked a fresh wave of enthusiasm, in their hope of drawing upon added backing for another push next term.

On the park, Caley Jags will take heart from the fact they earned the right to represent the Championship in the play-offs through their form during the campaign – along with the four matches which preceded their final against Saints.

They also got the better of champions Kilmarnock three times over the course of the season.

Reece McAlear in action against St Johnstone.

The Dundee side replacing Derek McInnes’ team in the second-tier will likely be considered favourites for an instant return to the Premiership, however there is clearly a huge rebuilding job required at Dens Park.

Inverness will of course face stiff competition from their existing Championship rivals, while the ambition of newly-promoted sides Cove Rangers and Queen’s Park will add a further challenge.

The disappointment of missing out on promotion will linger for some time before the Highlanders gear themselves up to go again next season.

Given Inverness’ consistent foothold at the top end of the league this term – even allowing for an 11-match winless run – they will rightly feel the new season holds nothing for them to fear as they aim to go one step better.

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