Caley Thistle ended a sequence of four matches without a victory with an impressive 3-1 defeat of Motherwell at Fir Park.
The opening goal was shrouded in controversy, as referee Craig Thomson ordered a re-take of Greg Tansey’s initially saved penalty, due to encroachment from the hosts, with the Englishman successful at the second attempt.
Although Caley Jags lost midfielder Ryan Christie to a knee injury, they doubled their lead through Miles Storey’s deflected effort just before the interval, with Iain Vigurs punished his former club with a sublime third goal on the volley on 53 minutes.
Although the Steelmen pulled a goal back through Louis Moult’s effort just before the hour mark, Inverness held on for a fine away victory which sees them leapfrog Kilmarnock into eighth in the Premeirship.
Caley Thistle manager John Hughes was forced to watch on from the stand, with the Highlanders making two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Dundee the previous weekend. One was enforced, with Lewis Horner coming in for suspended right back David Raven, while Inverness were boosted by the return of leading scorer Storey in place of Danny Williams.
Motherwell also drafted in their leading scorer, Moult, who had netted a late winner in his side’s previous outing against Kilmarnock, with Theo Robinson dropping to the bench.
Christe looked lively for the visitors early on, dragging a low shot wide from distance, before cutting in from the wide and glazing a shot just over.
The attacking midfielder was involved once again moments later to play in James Vincent, who went to ground under pressure from Well defender Josh Law, but had his claims waved away by referee Thomson.
Caley Jags did get their spot-kick on 10 minutes though, when Danny Devine’s header from a corner struck the arm of Motherwell skipper Stephen McManus, prompting Thomson to point to the spot.
Tansey’s initial effort was saved by goalkeeper Ripley, who dived low to his right, however Thomson pulled the ball back for a re-take due to encroachment from the home defence. At the second attempt, Ripley went the same way, but this time Tansey slotted the ball cooly into the opposite corner to give the visitors the lead, much to the anger of the home crowd.
Inverness had another chance moments later, when Carl Tremarco pulled the ball back for Vincent, but his low near post effort was gathered by Ripley.
At the other end Motherwell began to show their threat, with Moult proving a lively presence with two headers, his first effort smothered by Fon Williams, before he nodded wide from Marvin Johnson’s cross.
Caley Jags were dealt a huge blow seven minutes before the interval, when Christie landed awkwardly on his knee after closing down Kieran Kennedy’s clearance, forcing the on-loan Celtic midfielder to be carried off, and he was replaced by Spanish attacker Dani Lopez.
Despite the huge setback Inverness doubled their advantage on 44 minutes, when Storey let fly from the edge of the box, with a deflected effort that wrong-footed Ripley and nestled in the net.
Well came close to halving the deficit moments before the interval when Liam Grimshaw struck the bar from 20 yards. Caley Jags survived that scare to retain their two-goal lead going into the break, and just eight minutes into the second-half they added a third in outstanding fashion.
Tansey’s corner went all the way through to Vigurs on the edge of the box, and the Aberdonian punished his former club, who released him in the summer, with a thumping volley into the far corner past Ripley.
Well pulled one back when Lionel Ainsworth’s cross looped over the the head of Fon Williams, before being met by the outstretched Moult who bundled home at the far post.
The goal gave the hosts a renewed belief, and they came close to adding a second soon afterwards when Ainsworth’s shot was blocked behind by Horner, following an initially poor clearance by the Englishman, while Stephen Pearson struck over from a decent shooting position on 67 minutes.
Inverness were comfortable thereafter though, with McManus sent off in stoppage time for a second booking following a collision with Lopez.