Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Premiership flame, much to Hamilton’s dismay, flickers on.
Dundee’s recent improvement under interim manager Neil McCann, meanwhile, came to a crunching halt at Dens Park as they fluffed their chance to become chief executioners for a second successive season.
There was little of the intensity felt on the day they kicked Dundee United through the trap door. Certainly not from Dundee, whose poor start last night never gave them a chance of taking anything from the game. The home side were clearly not as fired up by the thought of relegating Inverness as they had been their neighbours.
But then Inverness never allowed Dundee the chance to settle another relegation issue. Hard working and organised in defence and ruthless up front, the visitors, who scored twice in the opening ten minutes, richly deserved to earn themselves a few days’ grace, which is the least these three points provides.
Early goals from Billy Mckay and Alex Fisher put Inverness in control and while Dundee got livelier towards the end of the first-half, the Highlanders dealt with the second period with some comfort.
Inverness now have to hope Dundee can raise their game against Hamilton on Saturday while ensuring they can collect all three points against Motherwell. If they do win at Caledonian Stadium then a win or draw for Dundee will mean Hamilton and Inverness swap places at the bottom, giving Richie Foran’s side the welcome opportunity to save themselves in a play-off.
Inverness were helped last night by Dundee having little to play for and feasted on the fact their opponents seemed to be still savouring the surprisingly early confirmation of their own top-flight survival.
Inverness were ahead within two minutes. Indeed, Mckay’s opener was timed as one minute and 35 seconds to be accurate. Startlingly, Dundee could well have conceded before even this quick-fire goal.
The way Mckay’s closed down Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain in the opening seconds spoke volumes about Caley Thistle’s spirit while hinting at Dundee lethargy after results elsewhere secured their safety 24 hours earlier.
Fortunately for Dundee, the ball rebounded off Mckay out of play rather than into their goal. But the opener was only delayed a matter of seconds. The space Mckay was granted was alarming but the striker didn’t think twice about how easily Liam Polwarth’s flick was allowed to get to him. He simply buried the ball into the net past Bain with his left foot for his fourth goal of the season.
This was a sweet moment for someone who played the day United were relegated here last season after a 2-1 derby defeat.
His side’s position became yet more comfortable shortly afterwards as Dundee were again left badly exposed. Iain Vigurs’ pass into the box found Fisher in splendid isolation. He brought the ball down on his chest before volleying into the net despite falling backwards.
Fisher picked up a knock in the act of scoring but as he gingerly made his way back to the half-way line his hurt was salved by the thought that Inverness, against all odds, were in a commanding position after just ten minutes.
It was Dundee who now had to try and force the game. Having looked so drowsy, they were now trying too hard to make things happen, impelled by the sudden change in mood of their fans.
Safety is one thing. But it does not make being embarrassed at home by the bottom team any less acceptable.
Dundee did come close to retrieving the situation courtesy of two Darren O’Dea headers from Kevin Holt corners. One flashed over and another went just wide.
But Haber should really have cut the deficit just before half-time after a cute flick from Ross into his path. The Canadian striker, who is still wearing gloves in May, has distinguished himself in dark blue but has a habit of frustrating golden opportunities. This was another though Ryan Esson deserves credit for blocking Haber’s effort with his foot before Louis Laing completed the job of clearing.
McCann did not look impressed and Haber lasted only ten minutes of the second-half before being replaced by Henrik Ojamaa.
But while Dundee continued to press, they were blunted by Haber’s withdrawal and Inverness held on with some ease.