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Caley Thistle tee up Hampden showdown after long-awaited home win against Arbroath

Alex Samuel strikes late to haul Inverness to within one point of eighth-placed Queen's Park, who are their Championship hosts on Saturday.

Wallace Duffy sweeps Caley Thistle into the lead against Arbroath.  Image: Ross MacDonald/SNS Group
Wallace Duffy sweeps Caley Thistle into the lead against Arbroath. Image: Ross MacDonald/SNS Group

Duncan Ferguson has challenged his Caley Thistle players to round off this season with more wins to secure Championship safety.

The Inverness boss was speaking after his ninth-placed side won 2-1 at home against now all-but-doomed basement visitors Arbroath.

This was the Highlanders’ first home league win in almost five months, so it was a long time coming for their long-suffering fans.

In gusty conditions, full-back Wallace Duffy gave ICT the lead late in the first half, but Leighton McIntosh fired the visitors level just after the hour.

Arbroath finished with 10 men when Ricky Little was sent off for collecting two bookings, before on-loan Ross County striker Alex Samuel smashed home the winner with 10 minutes to go.

The result hauls ICT to within one point of eighth-placed Queen’s Park, who are their hosts next Saturday, and, with just four fixtures left, gives them a huge chance to finally escape the relegation play-off spot. The Spiders crashed 5-0 against Dundee United and are also 11 goals worse off than Inverness.

Arbroath’s defeat in the Highlands means they are all but down.

With a far inferior goal difference and a 12-point gap to Caley Thistle above them, they are returning to League One, with the Red Lichties’ title-chase towards the Premiership two years ago under Dick Campbell a distant memory.

All eyes now on the trip to Hampden

Ferguson was delighted his players kept their cool when pegged back to seal a big result.

He said: “It was a much-needed win. We have been playing well but not picking up three points. At this stage of the season, we need to win games and score goals – and we did that today.

“We were worthy winners. We kept at it. We could have been two or three up, but we stuck at it and Wallace Duffy got another important goal for us, as he did at Dundee United recently (in the 1-1 draw).

“We were a bit edgy in the second half. After having so many chances in the first half, and we only went in 1-0 up, you always felt Arbroath were in the game. One chance was always going to come and Leighton McIntosh hit a great shot to  equalise.

“We showed character and it was a great finish by Alex to finish.

“Alex has been playing well, but the goals have not been there (since late January).

“There are teams above Queen’s Park we want to close the gap on. We are looking to go undefeated in these (last) four games – that will give us a great chance.

“Of course, we need a couple of wins within that, but it is a massive game on Saturday.

“They (Queen’s Park) took a doing off Dundee United (5-0) which will hurt their goal difference.

“It’s a cup final for us. We played really well last time at Hampden (4-1 win).”

Inverness midfielder Cammy Kerr (right) and Arbroath’s David Gold. Image: Ross MacDonald/SNS Group

Strugglers Caley Thistle and Arbroath were seeking rare victory

These bottom two teams are in their positions for a reason.

Since Arbroath won in Inverness in December, they had won just once in 16 outings, with 10 defeats to boot.

Inverness, without a home league win since early-November, had achieved just one victory in their last 10 games in league and cup.

The same starting 11 who were edged out 1-0 at Partick Thistle started for Caley Thistle.

Arbroath’s 2-1 home loss against Airdrie last Tuesday put them on the brink of relegation.

The match kicked off six minutes late as the officials had issues with the communication equipment.

Samuel went close twice, with a shot hitting the woodwork before another shot on the  turn was tipped around the post by Max Boruc.

The players continued to do what they could despite the conditions and Boruc produced another stop, this time from Dundee loanee Max Anderson, after he was picked out cleverly by Billy Mckay.

On the stroke of half-time, Remi Savage was forced off with a head blow after team-mate Cammy Kerr’s swipe for the ball accidentally caught him.

Duffy and Samuel earn vital victory for Inverness

Moments later, it was 1-0 for Inverness as a neat pass into the box from Samuel found attacking right-back Duffy and he coolly swept the ball past Boruc into the net.

Four minutes into the second half, Boruc was on hand again for Arbroath as he clutched a drive from Billy Mckay as the forward hit the mark from the edge of the box.

Chances were few and far between, but, from nothing, Arbroath drew level, as the Angus men won possession just outside the box and McIntosh crashed home a fine strike from 20 yards.

With 14 minutes to go, Arbroath were reduced to 10 men as Little was sent packing for a second bookable offence for bringing down Billy Mckay.

ICT grasped the win with 10 minutes remaining when Samuel showed power and precision before swerving a right-footed shot into the net beyond the reach of Boruc after Billy Mckay provided the assist.

Inverness defender Remi Savage (left) challenges Arbroath’s Jay Bird. Image:  MacDonald/SNS Group

Player ratings

CALEY THISTLE (3-5-2): Ridgers 6, Carragher 6, Savage 5 (Devine 45), Boyes 6, Duffy 6, Kerr 6, Lawal 6 (Longstaff 73), Anderson 6, Harper 7, Billy Mckay 6 (Doran 88), Samuel 7.

Subs not used: Cammy Mackay (GK), MacGregor, Pepple, Brooks, Ujdur.

ARBROATH (4-4-2): Boruc 7, Walker 6 (Lyon 64), Delaney 6, Little 6, Murray 6 (Dow 73), Gold 5 (McKenna 34), Slater 6, Mackinnon 6, Bird 7 (Stowe 73), McIntosh 6, Stewart 6.

Subs not used: Gaston (GK), Steele, Jacobs, Teale, Robinson.

Referee: Colin Steven.

Attendance: 2223.

Man of the match: Alex Samuel.