Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 - 3 Dundee United: Johnny Russell sparks United revival as Caley Thistle, and Chris Hogg, collapse

AMID the hurricanes and wintry blast Dundee United, naturally, had packed themselves off to St Andrews beach. Caley Thistle, meanwhile, were warmly ensconced in the Highland Football Academy.

Modernity, then, may have it’s limitations. Whether or not Peter Houston’s embracing of the Jock Wallace philosophy on bracing training sessions on the dunes was a factor, it paid off in the end.

Whether you classed this as a stunning Dundee United revival or a jaw-dropping Inverness Caley Thistle collapse probably depended on your hue and perspective.

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Terry Butcher’s men controlled and excelled in the first half and looked destined for their first back-to-back victories of the campaign when Billy McKay’s fine header made it 2-0 after 51 minutes.

Perhaps, even, a first clean sheet against a thus-far toothless United beckoned.

Enter Johnny Russell, axed to the bench after indifferent form, with a rousing two-goal show of strength and excellent finishing. The Scotland under-21 striker admitted that being dropped had been the “kick up the backside” he needed.

“I did deserve to be dropped because this season I’ve been nowhere near the player I was last season. I know that myself. Nobody’s harder on me than myself. I was just delighted to come on and get the two goals.”

With Russell’s arrival and an awful own-goal from home defender Roman Golobart igniting the Tangerines after 51 minutes, the game was turned completely on it’s head. The end result had United close to touching the top six again, rendering Caley Thistle’s revival hopes again abortive.

Within 70 seconds Inverness were ahead. David Davis, the on-loan Wolves midfielder, accelerated at pace from deep, winding past three Tangerine tackles and into the box. Squaring from the left of the area, in came Jonny Hayes to power a low, left foot shot past Dusan Pernis from eight or nine yards.

Home momentum stalled a couple of minutes later. A Davis foul on United’s Gary Mackay-Steven ended in a collision with Chris Hogg and him being carried off by stretcher.

Dundee United’s only attempt of note in a strikingly poor first-half display was a Jon Daly bullet header over the bar from Mackay-Steven’s corner.

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There was a feeling United could only get better in the second period, but Caley Thistle again tore out of the traps.

This time Hayes’ delivery after a run on the right was perfectly flighted and Billy McKay rose to angle an eight-yard header sweetly into the far corner of the net.

Peter Houston reacted by hauling off Willo Flood for Johnny Russell – with immediate deadly effect. After Stuart Armstrong’s dazzling run past three players, the ball broke to Russell in the box and he had time to fire low under Ryan Esson’s body.

Calamity struck Caley Thistle after 64 minutes as United claimed the equaliser.

The lively Armstrong fed Mackay-Steven at the left edge of the box and he let fly. Home defender Golobart slipped as he made to block, diverting the ball high past a helpless Esson.

It was anyone’s game entering the last 20 minutes, but Russell struck again with marvellous control and strength to finish. Mackay-Steven’s pass was enough for the Irishman to out-muscle Kenny Gillet and deftly flick the ball under the outcoming Esson.

It went from bad to worse for Butcher’s men as Davis earned a second yellow for sliding clumsily into Mackay-Steven.

Butcher, so buoyant through the week after victory at St Mirren, was utterly desolate at the end.

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“It was a disaster today. It looks like we’ve lost Chris Hogg for the rest of the season. David Davis is suspended next week and we’ve lost a game we were looking very good to win.

“I don’t think there have been many worse days.”