Boss Duncan Ferguson hailed Caley Thistle’s draw at Dundee United as the best display since he took over.
The former Everton caretaker manager and coach has only been in charge at Inverness for four games, but the 1-1 draw away to the Championship leaders makes it eight points from a possible 12 so far.
Returning to Tannadice, where his stellar playing career began, the ex-Rangers, Everton, Newcastle and Scotland striker was proud as a fabulous attack from back to front led to Nathan Shaw opening the scoring for Inverness in the second half.
Unfortunately for ICT, Kevin Holt buried a header from a corner to ensure a share of the spoils for home side United.
The Caley Jags are one point ahead of Morton at the foot of the table, but have a game in hand.
Vitally, though, their recent upsurge in form means they are just five points below the top four, with games to spare on a few rivals above them.
Ferguson, who was applauded by United and ICT fans at the end of Saturday’s Tayside tussle, was thrilled his team brought so much quality to the match.
He said: “That’s the best we’ve played since I’ve been here.
“To go toe-to-toe with the best team in the division… For the first 30 minutes of the game, we were absolutely sensational.
“We carved them open, connected our play and played a great technical game. Everything was working great, other than putting the ball in the net.
“We had one or two great opportunities to stick the ball in the net and it never quite happened for us, so you’re always a wee bit worried.
“Our goalkeeper, Mark Ridgers, made a great save in the first half as well, but I thought we were the better team, but we should have scored a couple of goals.
“In the second half, Dundee United got stronger, but we got the counter-attack with something we worked on in training.“From (Cammy Harper’s) cut-back, Nathan Shaw was in the position we wanted him in and he finished it fantastically well.
“Of course, we then didn’t hold out for long enough, so there was not enough time for the (United) fans to get on their backs. So, five minutes later, they scored. We need to try and manage that period of the game better.”
🤩 What a move
Nathan Shaw's goal against Dundee United yesterday! pic.twitter.com/lARTlCVxjh
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) November 5, 2023
New shape limited Dundee United
Following a 1-1 draw with nearest challengers Raith Rovers and a 2-0 SPFL Trust Trophy win at Peterhead, Dundee United have thumped beaten Partick Thistle 5-0, Arbroath 6-0 and Airdrie 2-0 to move four points cleat at the top of the league.
Such lethal finishing and danger out wide led to Caley Thistle gaffer Ferguson going with three centre-backs supported by a five-man midfield against United – and it worked.
He said: “Dundee United had scored 16 goals in five games and only conceded one.
“They had won 14 games (in all competitions) and drawn three – so I was not going to be naïve enough to go in with a narrow back four, considering they are very dangerous in the wide areas.
“I made sure I had my three centre-backs and strung out the back five (with David Carson and Cammy Harper supporting defensively from midfield) to restrict their spaces in the wide areas.
“It worked reasonably well – although they were getting down our right side a fair bit in the first half.
“It was a shape I thought would work well and it did.”
Ayr clash is chance to climb division
This Saturday, Inverness will close to within two points of fifth-placed visitors Ayr United with two games in hand if they win.
Ferguson feels being defensively sound is giving them his team a real chance to climb the table.
He added: “We’re on a good run and it was a good point for us on Saturday. It was a plus for us to get that away to the best team in the division.
“Ayr at home will be another tough one – but we’re up for it.
“We’re keeping a good defensive shape and not conceding a lot of goals, so we’re in a good place and we need to keep that momentum going.
“We’re still in ninth position, so we have to keep on pushing to try and get three valuable three points against Ayr.”
Tickets are now available for our upcoming home cinch Championship match against @AyrUnitedFC on Saturday 11th November 2023
With this match taking place on Remembrance Day, we’re pleased to offer a FREE Adult and Child ticket to current and former military personnel.
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) November 2, 2023