INVERNESS CT 3 Niculae 42, 76, Cowie 52 KILMARNOCK 1 Nish 87 pen
GAMES between this pair have a habit of producing goals and so it was on this occasion. Inverness grabbed the majority of them – Marius Niculae causing much of the damage – as the Highlanders secured their first home win over Kilmarnock.
A dull first half finished with Niculae nicking one for the hosts. For most of the second period, Inverness pinned their opponents back. Don Cowie doubled the home tally and Niculae managed his brace before Colin Nish converted the late penalty for Kilmarnock.
After five straight wins, Inverness had fallen at Falkirk. Now they are back on track with this victory. There was no joy for Kilmarnock. They were a match for Inverness for a while but Craig Brewster's side steamed in front and never looked like relinquishing their lead.
"I asked for more energy and we got that in the second-half," said Brewster. "We grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, went at Kilmarnock and made things happen. Every time we went up the park I thought we looked dangerous. Everybody played their part and we ran out comfortable winners. It's nice to close out 2007 with a victory at home."
An uncharacteristic overhead kick from Phil McGuire was the first launch at the Kilmarnock end. Graham Bayne tried a header but the visitors weren't breached by that either. There followed a brief spell of Kilmarnock pressure. A clever Mehdi Taouil fed Gary Wales. He crossed to David Fernandez whose flick was blocked brilliantly by the outstretched leg of Inverness goalkeeper Michael Fraser. Kilmarnock captain Garry Hay put a free-kick over the crossbar and McGuire crucially intercepted Jamie Hamill's centre.
But Inverness hit back as Niculae's drive was swatted down by Alan Combe who not long afterwards was beaten by the striker. John Rankin's initial shot was parried by Combe, but Niculae was on hand to sweep the ball into the net.
The hungry hosts continued to press after the break. Bayne's head-flick reached Niculae and he seemed set to score again, but Combe pulled off the vital save.
Richard Hastings single-mindedly surged deep into Kilmarnock territory and unleashed a shot that was stopped by Combe. The rebound landed at Hastings' feet but again he was denied, and so too was Niculae as he skilfully carved out an opportunity but the visiting goalie intervened with his feet. Bayne eventually sparked the third Caley goal. He forced a save from Combe and it fell to Niculae to finish off.
Kilmarnock's consolation came when Inverness captain Grant Munro handled in his own area. Nish made no mistake, but Caley had the points in the bag.
Inverness CT: Fraser, Tokely, McGuire (Proctor 89), Black, Bayne (Wyness 83), Duncan, Munro, Cowie, Hastings, Niculae, Rankin
Kilmarnock: Combe, Fowler, Hay, Ford, Nish, Wales, Fernandez (Johnston 79), O'Leary, Hamill, Bryson (Kondou 72), Taouil
Referee: Eddie Smith