Head coach Billy Dodds felt Caley Thistle should have been on to a winner as they set out with a 3-5-2 formation against Raith Rovers.
However, his injury-hit team toiled, trailed then levelled by reverting to type – to earn a 1-1 draw to take them into first spot in the Championship at the weekend.
The result extended their unbeaten league run against Rovers to 24 games spanning 20 years to the month and pushed them one point clear of Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park.
The Glasgow Jags crashed to a 4-0 home loss against Queen’s, which allowed ICT to go clear top just five days after a five-match winning run was ended by a 1-0 home loss to Hamilton.
Dodds, who had eight players sidelined through injury, also lost goalscorer Robbie Deas to injury late in the game, which was confirmed on Sunday as a broken leg.
Team didn’t get to grips with 3-5-2
The Inverness boss explained 3-5-2 seemed to be the best formation to suit his available players.
However, conceding to a 13th-minute Sam Stanton goal led him to move back to the familiar 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 variations.
He said: “We were playing 3-5-2 with what I felt was the perfect personnel, but we didn’t do the right jobs within the (formation).
“I have mobile players at the back and the right three in the middle of midfield.
“The wing backs can maybe be defenders sometimes and they were fine and, with the two boys up front, I felt it was a really good system for us. But we couldn’t get to grips with it.
“It’s one of the easiest systems in football and for some reason we can’t get it.
“Raith were the better team for 20 to 25 minutes and got the goal, then I had to change it, just to get the boys in to familiar roles.
“Then we got a brilliant equaliser from Robbie Deas because he started the move and then ran into the box to score.”
Rovers made the early breakthrough
Dodds was proud of his side, who won five on the spin before losing to Accies last week.
Another point from a game they again had to dig deep in means they are the team in front as they prepare for Friday night’s trip to Morton.
Raith, boosted by their midweek 1-0 win at Arbroath, began the day in seventh position, but just five points off the top and that’s where they remain after 12 matches.
The visitors were quick out of the traps, earning a couple of early corners and they got the opener on 13 minutes, thanks to a slice of good fortune and a sharp reaction.
Dylan Easton was unlucky with a low effort which came off the post. The ball bounced off Mark Ridgers and Sam Stanton raced in to poke the ball in the tight space between the goalkeeper and defender Max Ram.
A crucial save from Ridgers denied Easton the chance to double the Fifers’ advantage, while for ICT Nathan Shaw was not far off with a searing drive with too much height to test goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.
Stand-out Deas planted home header
However, gradual improvement, aided by the formation switch, led to the 38th-minute equaliser for Inverness.
Deas, who was outstanding all day, started a move, sweeping play out wide. Zak Delaney provided the cross and Deas adjusted his body superbly before burying his header beyond MacDonald into the net.
Chances were more limited in the second half, but another fine stop from Ridgers prevented Kieran Ngwenya from hitting the net after his weaving run and shot.
Both teams kept their shape well, with Rovers doing more of the pressing towards the end of a tight contest.
Welsh back in action after operation
There was a welcome return from the bench for Caley Thistle captain Sean Welsh, which was his first appearance of the season following his knee operation.
He’ll need valuable minutes, but just to see their on-field leader back is a massive shot in the arm for Inverness amid these injury-hit times.
There was a new blow though just two minutes from the end when Deas needed to go off after clearly being in pain following a clash with Scott Brown.
Ian Murray’s Rovers could have won it in the closing moments, but 18-year-old Matthew Strachan, who replaced Deas, diverted a Stanton effort in what was only the defender’s second short appearance after making his debut from the bench against Hamilton last Tuesday.
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.