Inverness 4 - 1 Falkirk: Caley Thistle strike trio sink Bairns

Inverness Caledonian Thistle's Jake Mulraney (centre) celebrates his goal with his team-mates. Picture: SNS.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle's Jake Mulraney (centre) celebrates his goal with his team-mates. Picture: SNS.
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Inverness blitzed the Bairns with a dazzling first-half show to move back to within three points of the play-off zone.

The confident Highlanders easily brushed aside the weekend’s stand-out performers , who slumped in baffling fashion just three days after destroying Dundee United spectacularly.

It was an encouraging return to winning ways for John Robertson’s side after just one win in the previous four outings.

Caley Thistle made five changes with Iain Vigurs back after suspension and attacking trio Jake Mulraney, George Oakley and Connor Bell restored to the home frontline – and the recalled front three all hit the net in the first half.

Caley Thistle manager John Robertson had expressed the hope Falkirk’s confidence drawn from the United drubbing would lead to over-exuberance and vulnerability in Paul Hartley’s ranks.

Those words seemed prophetic as the first half unfolded.

With five minutes gone, Joe Chalmers’ terrific through pass sent Oakley racing through on goalkeeper Robbie Thomson. It looked like the Bairns keeper had clipped Oakley for a penalty but the Englishman was booked for diving.

Andrew Nelson shot wide for Falkirk soon after, but with ten minutes gone the hosts were in front.

Liam Polworth’s pass found Mulraney to the right of the box and the Irishman showed good skill to weave into space and shoot.

Keeper Thomson spilled the drive and Oakley slid in to score close in.

The home side were buzzing, with Mulraney fluffing a chance high over and Chalmers firing wide from distance.

A brilliant parry by Thomson denied Caley Thistle defender Gary Warren from ten yards out after 25 minutes, but three minutes later the lead was doubled.

Polworth broke at pace through the middle and released Mulraney to the right. The Irishman promptly dinked a pass inside the outcoming goalkeeper to leave Bell with a simple close-range finish – his seventh of the campaign.

Just on the half hour, it was three. Vigurs’ long pass found Oakley turning sharply to elude his marker and then release Mulraney at the edge of the box.

The Dubliner produced the calmest of finishes from 18 yards to break his duck for the Highlanders after 18 months with the club.

The only taint for the hosts was Carl Tremarco’s injury exit ten minutes before the break.

First-half hero Mulraney joined Tremarco in the treatment room early in the second half.

Falkirk struggled to find answers, but went close just after the hour mark.

In a great position, Nelson tried to find Louis Longridge in front of goal but Vigurs came tearing back to make a great saving interception.

Oakley had a finish disallowed for offside soon after, while home keeper Mark Ridgers dramatically tipped a fierce Lewis Kidd strike over the bar.

Falkirk’s revival efforts were never convincing and there was a lack of quality in their final pass and movement in the hosts’ half.

Oakley had another great chance after 81 minutes but sliced his shot into the side-netting from the left of the box.

Home slackness allowed Falkirk to claw one back with four minutes left as a long ball sent Longridge in on the keeper to net the consolation.

But substitute John Baird headed the fourth two minutes later from Aaron Doran’s cross.