Injury-ravaged Caley Thistle maintained their 22-year unbeaten league record against Raith Rovers as their 1-1 draw took them top of the Championship.
With Partick Thistle crashing 4-0 at home to Queen’s Park, ICT made up for losing to Hamilton by hitting back from a goal down to seal the one point which keeps them ahead of Thistle and Queens.
A recent five-fixture winning surge shot them into the higher reached of the table.
In-form midfield Sam Stanton fired Rovers ahead on 13 minutes, but defender Robbie Deas powered home a header just before the break.
With eight first-team players out through injury, including Dan MacKay who went off with a knee injury against Accies, home boss Billy Dodds was gone to the bare bones.
Nathan Shaw took the place of on-loan Hibs winger MacKay and defender Max Ram kept his place in the back-line with Wallace Duffy still sidelined. On his 34th birthday, striker Billy Mckay was handed a return to the team in place of Aaron Doran.
Raith travelled to the Highlands fresh from a midweek 1-0 win at struggling Arbroath, which left them just five points away from their hosts at kick-off.
Rovers manager Ian Murray made just one change to his starting 11, with Kyle Connell replacing the injured John Fredericksen.
It was October 2000 when Raith last defeated ICT on league business and the Caley Jags added to that record early last month with a 2-0 win at Stark’s Park.
With a lengthy injury list, perhaps the Kirkcaldy team would sense an opportunity to change that stat? For Dodds’ men, they needed a win to stay apace with Partick at the top.
Raith began with a real sense of purpose, forcing a couple of early corners before Billy Mckay earned one at the opposite end.
Stanton opened the scoring when he prodded the ball home from close range after Dylan Easton hit the post and the ball bounced off keeper Mark Ridgers into the scorer’s path. This was Stanton’s fourth goal in six outings.
Raith’s tails were up and Easton was not far off just a few minutes later, but Ridgers was equal to it. Inverness were hanging on.
The hosts were soon asking questions though and Shaw fired a swerving shot over the top from the left angle of the penalty box after half an hour.
Seven minutes before half-time, ICT drew level when, from a Delaney delivery from the left, Deas swooped to head home from 12 yards. It was his first goal since netting against Dundee in December 2020.
Five minutes into the second half, a fine diving save from Ridgers prevented Kieran Ngwenya from hitting the net after a surging attack ended with a shot on target.
It was nip and tuck, with neither side making in-roads, but vitally keeping their shape and order.
Inverness skipper Sean Welsh made his first appearance of the season with 15 minutes to go following his knee operation keeping him out of action.
In the closing stages, ICT centre-half Deas was replaced by young Caley Jags defender Matthew Strachan after receiving treatment on the park following a dunt on his shin from captain Scott Brown.
A block from Strachan just a few moments later prevented Stanton from snatching a last-gasp winner.
Inverness will aim to keep ahead of the chasers on Friday when they travel to Morton.
CALEY THISTLE (3-5-2) – Ridgers 6, Harper 6, Deas 8 (Strachan 88), Carson 6, Billy Mckay 7, Oakley 6, Ram 6, Hyde 7 (Welsh 75), Shaw 6, Delaney 6, Boyd 6 (Doran 67). Subs not used – Cammy MacKay (GK), Calum MacKay, Bray.
RAITH ROVERS (4-2-3-1) – MacDonald 6, Dick 6, Millen 6, Spencer 6, Connolly 6 (Matthews 77), O’Riordan 6, Ngwenya 7, Stanton 7, Connell 6 (Coulson 90), Brown 6, Easton 7. Subs not used – Thomson (GK), McBride, Mahady, Masson.
Referee – Matthew MacDermid.
Attendance – 2225.
Man of the match – Robbie Deas.