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Duncan Ferguson hails treble star Alex Samuel after Caley Thistle’s 3-2 win at Raith Rovers

The on-loan Ross County forward netted a nine-minute hat-trick to earn eighth-placed ICT a vital victory away to the second-top Fifers.

Alex Samue celebrates  after scoring to make it 2-1 to ICT. Images: Paul Byars/SNS Group
Alex Samue celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 to ICT. Images: Paul Byars/SNS Group

Duncan Ferguson heaped praise on hat-trick hero Alex Samuel as Caley Thistle stunned title-chasing Raith Rovers 3-2 at Stark’s Park.

Jack Hamilton’s header gave Rovers the lead, but a swift treble within nine first half minutes from on-loan Ross County forward Samuel gave ICT a 3-1 interval advantage.

Lewis Vaughan’s goal early in the second half offered the Fifers hope, but they could not turn it around as they have done so often this term – including twice in wins against ICT.

The Caley Jags remain eighth in the Championship, but are now six points ahead of basement side Arbroath, while Dundee United are now one point ahead of Rovers with a game in hand after their 0-0 draw with Dunfermline.

Three swift goals were ‘scintillating’

Boss Ferguson was delighted with Samuel, who joined little over a week ago until the end of the season.

He said: “Alex has made a massive difference to us, particularly in the first half when he was unstoppable. A nine-minute hat-trick was fabulous.

“To score three goals in nine minutes was scintillating. It was a fantastic number nine performance.

“We know Alex is a very good player. He’s played at a higher level and he showed what he could do today and last week in the Scottish Cup (when he scored in the 4-0 win against Broomhill).

“He’s not played a lot of football or had many starts. He’s now had two starts within a week and scored four goals, so hopefully he can become prolific. He was today, that’s for sure.”

Inverness this week signed defenders Cammy Kerr and Jeremiah Mullen on loan from Dundee and Leeds United, and snapped up Newcastle centre-back Remi Savage on a permanent deal.

All three made their debuts, within eight changes overall from last week.

Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson.

New defenders all impressed boss

Ferguson was delighted to see his new arrivals impressive in their first Caley Jags displays.

He said: “I had two debutants playing their first senior appearances (Mullen and Savage), two young boys at 19 and 22.

“It was a very young back-line, but they did very well. As the game went on, we brought on more experienced players.

“I brought these young players in because we believe they are good players. I think that was their first time playing an actual (competitive) game on a plastic pitch. That was my concern, but they did very well and they will get better for it.

“Cammy Kerr’s experience gives us a nice balance, as does Alex Samuel, which blends with a bit if youth.”

Attackers on the radar for Ferguson

Ferguson’s squad is top-heavy with defenders, so he’s aiming to bring in players up top before the window closes.

He added: “I have a wee bit of leeway to certainly get maybe one or two more in.

“I don’t think it will be a defender, although we do play five at the back, so we need cover. I think it would be in the forward area of the pitch.”

ICT struck back after falling behind

Back-to-back league losses against Airdrie and Queen’s Park, and a 2-1 Scottish Cup defeat at Premiership Livingston followed a brilliant 16-game unbeaten run for the Raith Rovers.

Inverness, with just two league wins from their last eight matches, were keen to kick on.

Raith got the opener on 24 minutes when Josh Mullin whipped in an inch-perfect corner from the left and Jack Hamilton stormed in to crash a header into the net.

Alex Samuel takes it in after scoring his nine-minute hat-trick for Caley Thistle.

That lead lasted just six minutes, however, as Nathan Shaw picked out Samuel, who held off his marker before guiding the ball beyond Dabrowski.

And just five minutes later, Samuel made it two when he lashed home a terrific right-footed strike from just outside the box to stun Raith after a set-piece was not dealt with by their opponents.

The story was far from over for the Staggies striker though as just over eight minutes after his first goal, he guided a stunning volley low past the goalkeeper when he met a Harper corner.

Vaughan reply not enough for Raith

Vaughan sliced the ICT lead down to one goal seven minutes after the break after on-loan Dundee striker Zak Rudden, who had just come on, sent him through on goal.

Raith’s Lewis Vaughan celebrates scoring to make it 3-2.

Despite that shot in the arm, Rovers were not clinical enough after that, though always a threat.

A late appeal for a Raith spot-kick when Rudden went down in the box was waved clear by referee Dan McFarlane and Vaughan fired over the bar, but it was not to be their day.

The next crunch league clash for the Caley Jags comes on Saturday when Queen’s Park head north.

Player ratings

RAITH ROVERS (3-5-1-1): Dabrowski 5, Millen 6, Brown 6, Dick 6 (McGill 81), Connolly 7, Mullen 5 (Rudden 46), Byrne 6 (Matthews 83), Murray 6, Smith 5 (Easton 46), Hamilton 6 (Turner 50), Vaughan 6.

Subs not used: McNeil (GK), Watson, Corr, Hannah, Rudden.

CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2): Ridgers 6, Kerr 6, Mullen 6 (Duffy 85), Devine 6 (Carragher 60), Savage 6 (Boyes 60), Shaw 7, Anderson 6 (Carson 60), Gilmour 7, Harper 6, Samuel 9, Billy Mckay 6 (Brooks 83).

Subs not used: Cammy MacKay (GK), Doran, MacGregor, Ujdur.

Referee: Dan McFarlane.

Attendance: 3,387.

Star Man: Alex Samuel.