A spirited display from Ross County saw them dispose of the form book and their Highland rivals Inverness in a 2-1 victory.
A SPIRITED display from Ross County saw them dispose of both the formbook and Inverness in a 2-1 victory – their first on their Highland rivals’ turf since 2009.
County had picked up just one point from their previous nine Scottish Premiership games but they were to celebrate a win thanks to first-half goals from Scott Boyd and Alex Cooper.
For County manager Derek Adams, so vexed by defensive lapses and frailties this season, it was an inspiring show, helped greatly by the arrival of Blackburn Rovers loanee Jordan Slew.
“I thought he was very good for us today, and Cooper was good on the left-hand side,” Adams said. “The midfield looked sound. Slew took the ball in and gave [Gary] Warren and [Josh] Meekings a hard time. They are two centre halves who have dealt well with a lot of players this season. We’ve dealt well with Caley Thistle’s danger players such as [Aaron] Doran and [Billy] McKay today.”
He added: “It’s a big win. We’ve won the first derby of the season and we won the last of last season. It’s great. You want to win derbies but we want to win games coming up as well.”
The 37th Highland derby could hardly have pitted two teams with more sharply contrasting fortunes – Inverness Caley Thistle riding high in the push for a European place, County in the relegation play-off zone with nine defeats and a draw from ten outings.
While Adams put 21-year-old Slew straight into his squad, John Hughes’s Caley Thistle were unchanged from the side narrowly defeated by Celtic at home on Sunday and still without injured captain Richie Foran.
The 6ft 3 in tall Slew’s impact was immediate and his control, strength and presence in two early County attacks was obvious.
However, it was the hosts who went closest after just five minutes. Doran gained possession just outside the County area and his low right-foot strike hit the inside of the left-hand post.
McKay pounced on the rebound but, uncharacteristically, sliced wide from eight yards out.
County’s Stuart Kettlewell took an early booking for a challenge on Marley Watkins.
Watkins went down again in a clash with Ben Gordon after 14 minutes and had to be substituted soon after.
A minute later, County were ahead. Slew was involved again before Glen played the ball across from the left.
Defender Boyd timed his run at the far side of the box and his powerful, angled strike took a slight deflection off Carl Tremarco’s arm before beating Inverness goalkeeper Dean Brill at the near post.
Inside two minutes, County had doubled their lead to the delight and disbelief of the away support. Again, Slew’s control and excellent cross out onthe right was the catalyst for Cooper.
He twisted and turned on the ball on the left side of the box before cutting inside Graeme Shinnie and clipping a 12-yard shot low past Brill and into the far corner of the net.
Caley Thistle looked shell-shocked for a spell, but tried to respond after 26 minutes.
Tremarco’s cross from the left was met by a McKay dink close-in but saved well by Michael Fraser.
The hosts seemed short on ideas as County held the lead comfortably through to half-time.
Caley Thistle are rarely written off at home and had roused themselves from 4-0 down here to lose 4-3 to Aberdeen.
The hosts had to muster something, but it was County’s Graham Carey who fired a free-kick just over the bar early in the second period.
Warren was booked for going through the back of Slew a short time later.
There were flutters for County as Fraser spilled a Ross Draper dig at goal, but Brian McLean stepped in front of McKay to clear.
Draper was lucky to escape unpunished after leaving the boot in on a tackle on substitute Branislav Micic after 72 minutes.
But it was a straight red for the Caley Thistle midfielder three minutes later after swinging an elbow at Stuart Kettlewell.
Doran’s late chip after a through ball from Liam Polworth gave a glimmer of hope.
Inverness: Brill; Shinnie, Warren, Meekings, Tremarco (Polworth, 77); Ross, Doran, Draper, Watkins (Agdestein, 24) Williams; McKay. Subs not used: Esson, Raven, Devine, Greenhalgh, Christie.
Booked: G Warren.
Sent off: R Draper (violent conduct).
Ross County: Fraser; Gordon, Saunders (Micic, 68), McLean, Boyd; Kettlewell (Quinn, 88), Carey, Brittain, Cooper; Glen (Luckassen, 74), Slew. Subs not used: Brown, De Leeuw, Maatsen, Klok.
Booked: S Kettlewell, G Glen, J Slew, G Carey.
Ref: A Muir