Butcher’s men just two wins away from return to top flight

ONLY two wins stand between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the First Division Championship following Saturday’s 3-1 win at Queen of the South .

With a seven-point lead over second-placed Dundee retained it looks almost certain that Terry Butcher’s side will return to the SPL at the first time of asking.

They fell behind to a Willie McLaren goal after 10 minutes on Saturday, but Richie Foran and Adam Rooney combined for Rooney to level three minutes from the interval. Grant Munro put them ahead after 67 minutes before the home side’s Bob Harris was red carded and Rooney sealed the win three minutes from time.

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Butcher said: “That’s 18 games undefeated which is a great effort. We have a week’s break now which is probably needed as we were not at our best. But Palmerston Park is a tough place to come and get the points so that was the main thing.”

Queen of the South’s interim manager Kenny Brannigan said: “The boys gave their all and that is pleasing especially when we went down to ten men.”

Dundee did what they had to do to keep the title race alive by winning 1-0 at Firhill against Partick Thistle, with substitute Pat Clarke making all the difference.

The former Dunfermline and Clyde player came off the bench with little more than 15 minutes to go and netted within 60 seconds when he headed in a Leigh Griffiths cross to make it a clean sweep for Dundee men against the Glasgow side this season.

Recently-installed Dundee manager Gordon Chisholm was pleased that his side put their working clothes on for the game.

He said: “It was all about getting the three points and good football was secondary. We have three more games to be played away from home which will be like this and we hopefully learned how to win without playing at our best.”

Partick are on a wretched run of form at the moment of six defeats in seven games, but manager Ian McCall said he was proud of their efforts.

“We had to change our substitute’s bench at the last minute as we got word that the father of one of our players passed away. In the circumstances I thought the players were magnificent, as were the fans who gave us great backing.”

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Ayr United lost for the fourth game in a row as they went down 2-1 to Dunfermline and United’s assistant manager Scott MacKenzie said the players need to start showing greater effort to stop the club slipping back into the Second Division.

MacKenzie said: “We don’t want to be in the Second Division and we are sure the players don’t, but we need to go out and work hard to show that. That is the same group of players that were on a good run recently but the work rate has dropped to a standard that is not acceptable.”

Ross Campbell volleyed in a Steven McDougall cross six minutes from the break to give Dunfermline a deserved lead, but right on half time Ayr equalised when Tam McManus darted past the visiting defence and goalkeeper Chris Smith to slot the ball in against his former side.

Dunfermline won the game eight minutes into the second period when David Graham sent Steven McDougall through on goal and he shot low past Craig Samson.

Dunfermline manager Jim McIntyre said: “We have beaten last season’s points tally and are looking to grab second place which I know will be difficult, but we have three games coming up and our aim is to win them all.”