It is eight years now since Inverness Caley Thistle, under newly-installed manager Terry Butcher, suffered the trauma of relegation from Scotland’s top flight only to bounce back 12 months later. Safe to say, the dark day is imprinted on current manager Richie Foran’s mind.
The question the Irishman raised after ten-man Inverness collapsed in yet another worrying reversal was whether those under his charge fully understand the fall-out that accompanies such a tumble down the leagues.
The momentum flowing against the Highlanders seems unstoppable. Foran apologised to the booing home supporters but also questioned his players who capitulated after a strong first-half show disintegrated in the face of the opener from Steven MacLean.
Larnell Cole’s senseless red card with eight minutes left, Liam Craig’s penalty and another from Graham Cummins hoisted St Johnstone to within three points of Rangers. To rub salt into the Inverness wounds, captain Gary Warren was shown a red card in the tunnel after the match.
“We folded in the last ten minutes. There was a lack of courage and confidence. That’s a worry,” Foran, still with only one win from 21 league games, admitted. “It’s the first time we’ve really let our supporters down with a lack of passion and desire. We dominated the first half, but there’s no more excuses. It’s not good enough and the main person it’s not good enough from is me. I pick the team, but the players need to stand up and be counted.
“The majority of the supporters’ anger should be at me. I can fully understand them. I apologise to them as it’s the first time I feel we’ve really let them down. We looked good in the first half but that’s not enough. Do we believe we can score or keep a clean sheet? I can see a confidence problem. I’ve kept it positive for months so maybe I’ll go the other, tell them how bad they’ve been and see if I get a reaction.
“Relegation has been spoken about. We spoke about it yesterday morning. I’ve been part of a team that’s been relegated here, seeing office staff crying in the corridor at losing their jobs. Maybe some of the younger players didn’t know what it means to the city of Inverness.”
Big home striker Alex Fisher, earning his first start since September, went close after 18 minutes with a thumping eight-yard header from Kevin McNaughton’s cross. The home momentum seemed to be building towards an opener and Ross Draper split the Saints defence with a fine pass after 32 minutes, but keeper Alan Mannus shut down Billy Mckay. Saints, though, were ahead on 40 minutes. Home keeper Owain Fon Williams palmed away a Michael Coulson effort but MacLean pounced on the loose ball and netted despite Warren’s desperate clearance attempt on the line.
It proved a far more sluggish second period but disaster struck the hosts in almost suicidal fashion as home midfielder Cole, after 82 minutes, took a senseless red card. After being fouled himself by Liam Craig, Cole drew a yellow card for dissent and then, as his angry reaction continued, took a second yellow and red.
The next nail in the coffin came after 88 minutes amid Saints pressure as Carl Tremarco tripped Cummins in the box and Craig, marking that 300th game, sent Fon Williams the wrong way.
Substitute Chris Millar then created the last hammer-blow for the hosts as he set up Cummins for a thumping finish close in.
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright hailed it as a “massive win”.
He said: “Liam is a great servant to the club and so is Chris Millar. It’s testament that we’ve got Steven Anderson and two other players on 300 appearances. We’re three points off third place and, with the way results went, it was massive.”