Ross County 0-3 Inverness CT: Cup winners back down to earth

Liam Polworth (right) is congratulated by team mate Miles Storey after scoring Inverness CT's first goal. Picture SNS
Liam Polworth (right) is congratulated by team mate Miles Storey after scoring Inverness CT's first goal. Picture SNS
  • ICT scorers: Polworth 33; Draper 37; Storey 48
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There are usually one or two uninvited strangers who muscle in on a big party and wreak all the more carnage for holding no great stake in the occasion.

This was scripted as a day of unblemished joy for Ross County as they toasted the greatest success in their history. It all fell just a little bit flat.

Wallflowers who were supposed to slink away quietly before the League Cup-winning celebrations kicked off, stuck around long enough to rain on the parade.

Inverness Caley Thistle’s 1,163 supporters ended the day quite literally basking in the Highland sunshine, while the rest of the 5,912 turn-out looked on under a metaphorical pall of gloom that only lifted when last Sunday’s silverware surfaced.

Deadly finishes from Liam Polworth, Ross Draper and Miles Storey added the touch of sourness to proceedings, but County had great chances in the first half-hour. That said, Caley Thistle also twice rattled the woodwork.

It might all have been different had Owain Fon Williams not pulled off a brilliant save inside the first 30 seconds, but it was John Hughes’ men who clinically took their chances.

Hughes, after resurrecting top-six chances with his team’s fifth straight win in Dingwall, said: “I love coming here as this the loudest I ever hear our supporters. Dingwall brings out the best in them. They are so passionate and it really inspires us.

“I’d like to think we are in the mix again for the top six, but all we can do is try to get results and see where it takes us.”

With less than 30 seconds gone, Richard Foster sped away on the left and curled in a terrific cross. Alex Schalk’s stooping header was hitting the net from a few yards but Fon Williams pulled off a magnificent reflex stop to his right at point-blank range for a corner.

County captain Andrew Davies headed wide after 18 minutes and there was high drama at either end seven minutes later.

First, Polworth’s cross from the right found Caley Thistle left-back Carl Tremarco racing in at the far side of the area to crack in a volley that almost shattered the corner of bar and post, but bounced to safety.

Less than a minute later, County broke, with Liam Boyce’s head-flick sending Jackson Irvine bounding in behind his markers. He strode on into the box and shot past Fon Williams, but hit the outside of the right-hand post.

Just as County’s pressure seemed to be building to a breakthrough, the city club took a 33rd minute lead.

Storey broke from the halfway line and found Polworth at the edge of the 18-yard box, and he unleashed a tremendous right-foot blast into the bottom left-hand corner.

There was more glee for Caley Thistle and disbelief for County barely four minutes later. Polworth’s high ball forwards was flicked on by Lee Hughes and Draper stretched to cut the ball low past Gary Woods.

Shortly after the interval, County were in deep trouble. From a Draper ball forward, Storey, close to 30 yards out, controlled with his chest and lashed a swerving strike past Woods to send the away fans behind the net into raptures and put his team 3-0 up. It was Storey’s tenth goal of the season.

Jim McIntyre was furious at referee Bobby Madden for missing an alleged handball for the third goal, but still managed a broad smile as the open-top bus rolled down the High Street.

“It was about taking your chances,” the County manager said. “I felt in the first half, we were the better side up until losing the goal. You’ve got to give Inverness the credit. They punish us, we don’t punish them.”