‘PAY what you can’ was a roaring success – and so was the team the newbies came to watch. A breathlessly entertaining, silky and dominant Inverness Caley Thistle leapt into third place in the Premiership table above Dundee United, turning on the style for the punters who could choose their own price last night.
Scorers: McKay (34), Watkins (41)
The first-half goals from Billy McKay and Marley Watkins were a scant return for total control in the 90 minutes, barring perhaps a slightly jittery start.
European dreams are burning brightly for John Hughes’ men, now just three points behind leaders Aberdeen with a 100 per cent start in 2015’s four games.
The crowd last night wasn’t massive at just over three thousand, but way above the apocalyptic level feared by club officials before the innovative initiative. It proved a worthy experiment, with the attendance more than likely a double to a third up on what they might have anticipated.
Saints hadn’t won any of their last five visits to Inverness, however on a freezing evening they were first to warm to the task – but it was to prove a fleeting spell on the front foot.
The Perth men generated three early corners, the second of which led to Liam Caddis curling in a dangerous cross from the right.
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Graeme Shinnie made to clear at the far post but a clumsy touch flew just over his own crossbar.
Those early scrapes soon gave way to better from Inverness, though, and they created a tremendous opportunity after 15 minutes.
Danny Williams’ angled pass to release McKay was a little heavy but the club’s top scorer went close from the tightest of angles.
Marley Watkins then connected with a blocked shot from the back of the six-yard box and Aaron Doran’s strike on the rebound brushed the outside of beaten Alan Mannus’s right-hand post.
If anything the hosts were overly-intricate at times, but it was brilliant to watch.
Saints were scrambling and struggling for a touch of the ball as the home side treated any newcomers in the crowd to a taste of some mesmerising passing ability.
Moments later, Nick Ross planted a cross from the right upon McKay’s head. The Northern Ireland international speared the ball towards the bottom corner but the effort lacked pace as Mannus clutched the ball. Saints, with eight wins in their last 11 outings, were growing increasingly panicky in defence – and the breakthrough came after 34 minutes.
Ross controlled a deflected clearance attempt and chipped to the back post where Shinnie quickly cut back to McKay seven yards out.
The prolific striker wasn’t going to miss from there and hungrily hammered in his tenth goal of the season.
The Highlanders just wouldn’t let up. Frazer Wright had to make a desperate, full-stretch saving tackle on Watkins as he tore into the box after 40 minutes but a minute later it was 2-0.
Williams’ measured ball down the left was matched by Carl Tremarco’s run and the full-back swept the ball across goal past a diving Mannus for the waiting Watkins to calmly stroke past the grounded keeper.
Before the break, Tremarco also smashed a powerful volley just a whisker wide of target.
There was no ebbing from Inverness as the second period opened and no shift in the worrying pattern for St Johnstone.
The impressive movement of the likes of Ross and Doran was eye-catching and impressive as epitomised in a fine move after 52 minutes.
Ross spun into space and released Doran outside the left angle of the box. He cut onto his right foot and swerved a shot towards the top corner, which was palmed partially away by Mannus.
Wright couldn’t clear properly and Ross lashed just over the bar from the edge of the box.
Saints struggled to muster much at all in response with Dean Brill untested in the home goal. Even in the final minute, with Saints beaten and bedraggled, Hughes’ men were still charging forwards. In the final seconds a lung-busting Tremarco run ended with keeper Mannus pushing the angled shot to safety.
Inverness CT: Brill, Shinnie, Warren, Meekings, Tremarco, Watkins (Christie 68), Draper, Williams (Vincent 82), Doran, Ross,
McKay (Sutherland 88). Subs Not Used: Esson, Devine, Horner, Polworth.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Anderson, Wright (Miller 56), Scobbie, O’Halloran (Kane 29), Brown (McDonald 46), Lappin, Caddis, Wotherspoon, Graham. Subs Not Used: MacLean, Banks, Croft, Easton.
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