As ever, it seems, obituaries were being written prematurely on Inverness Caley Thistle’s season, not to mention Richie Foran’s managerial prospects. Saturday felt like business-as-usual for the Highland hosts.
The old, trademark physicality and sharpness of thought were back in motion as Josh Meekings’ late, scrambled – but thoroughly-deserved – winner broke the Irishman’s league duck in management.
It was a well-earned win and one all the more crucial after three defeats, given looming matches against Celtic and Aberdeen after the international break.
“We deserved the win. We were excellent from start to finish,” said Foran, pictured. “I’m just drained! We got our break, our ricochet.
“It was pure team spirit that won that today. The supporters were great as they could have easily got a bit negative. There’s been a bit of doom and gloom in the last few weeks, so we dedicate this to them.”
Foran’s tactical switch of Ross Draper into a more advanced midfield role proved a masterstroke.
Alan Mannus deserved credit for a string of important saves, with the first coming after nine minutes.
From Greg Tansey’s free-kick, big Draper made a good connection with his head only for Mannus to make a strong diving block.
Liam Polworth’s rasping strike from 25 yards whistled wide after 17 minutes, although Saints’ Blair Alston narrowly missed contact on an attempted diving header from David Wotherspoon’s cross. Mostly, though, it was Inverness firmly on the front foot.
After 20 minutes a deft chip into the danger area from Draper was met by Fisher’s head-flick. Mannus, again, had the measure of it and leapt to touch the ball over the bar.
Immediately, Chris Kane found himself in space 12 yards out but lifted his shot wildly over under-worked Owain Fon Williams’ bar.
Iain Vigurs’ lovely chipped pass into the Saints penalty area created another superb opportunity after 27 minutes, but Fisher fluffed a poor shot into the arms of Mannus.
The pattern continued into the second period and the deserved breakthrough came just before the hour.
David Wotherspoon took a booking for tripping King on the extreme left of the box. Tansey swirled a lovely free-kick across the six-yard box and Draper outleapt everyone with a towering close-range header – his fourth goal of the season.
Saints levelled with Richard Foster almost ripping the net from 20 yards out, firing high past Owain Fon Williams.
It seemed the hosts’ luck was out when man of the match Draper’s header was saved on the line by Mannus.
But another Tansey corner just into stoppage time sparked a massive scramble in Saints’ six-yard box before Josh Meekings squeezed the ball in at the back post.
It was the least the hosts deserved as St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright acknowledged: “It is a cruel ending, but over the piece I’d say they probably deserved it.
“We’ve been done by two set plays and we’re better than that.”