Why Inverness won't get carried away after successfully testing Kilmarnock's Championship mettle

His Inverness side moved clear at the top of the cinch Championship table – but Billy Dodds refuses to be carried away this early in the season.

Michael Gardyne celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 Inverness during a cinch Championship match between Kilmarnock and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at The BBSP at Rugby Park, on August 28, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Michael Gardyne’s early strike settled the game of the day in the second tier, but after gaining the upper hand on their promotion rivals, Dodds insisted late August was too early to read too much into the standings.

“This is a hard division. We’ve started well. If we start saying we’re going to do this and that, win the title, that’s the wrong thing to say. We’ve beaten a top team, we did it well and deserved it but that’s as far as it goes. It’s back to work.”

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The co-leaders were the second test of Kilmarnock’s promotion credentials, having already seen off their former Premiership fellows Hamilton last week. Neither had lost in the league this season, neither conceded in the campaign's three games nor scored before half-time.

Kilmarnock's Chris Burke remonstrates with referee Euan Anderson during a cinch Championship match between Kilmarnock and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at The BBSP at Rugby Park, on August 28, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The stats changed after just five minutes when Michael Gardyne lashed high into the net. The winger was afforded time and space by his former club to advance and beat Zak Hemming from the edge of the box after a one-two with Shane Sutherland.

From that point Inverness had the lead, the league lead, and were determined to hang onto it by whatever means necessary. Fouls, totalling almost three to one against the visitors in the first half, interrupted the home side’s flow and deconstructed Kilmarnock’s attacks.

Best in the league

In Chris Burke, Kilmarnock have a winger capable of rivalling Gardyne among the most effective attackers in the second tier. His ability to match Gardyne’s early impact though was curbed by the frequent stoppages, particularly in the first 20 minutes with two visits from the physio.

Inverness' Manny Duku (R) in action with Dylan McGowan of Kilmarnock. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The pair themselves clashed in the 37th minute with Burke again toppled late. Kilmarnock failed to take the advantage, Innes Cameron and Liam Polworth waited to pull the trigger before Brandon Haunstrup’s angled effort was blocked.

It wasn’t their only chance, but they were being largely stifled by the visitors. After conceding from the first chance granted, Kilmarnock could have levelled before the break. Blair Alston had a half-volley tipped onto the post by Mark Ridgers on 25 minutes.

Ridgers also forced the ball out after spilling a second half header from Cameron but rarely looked like being beaten by that stage.

Deserved result

In the end, the Highlanders’ win was deserved.

With ex-Killie man Kirk Broadfoot at the back, Billy Dodds side built on their defensive foundation and were destructive when they needed to be. An attack including Garydne and the striding power of Shane Sutherland and Manny Duku defended from the front and when Sean Welsh replaced Duku to shore up the final half-hour it locked in the three points and limited an increasingly pedestrian Kilmarnock to playing around their own back-line.

“That was all about our team shape from strikers, wide men, the lot. It’s the best game Michael Gardyne has played for us,” said an enthused Dodds.

Killie boss Tommy Wright added: “The quality in our passing wasn’t as sharp as it should have been, we took too many touches and allowed Inverness to press us. We only have ourselves to blame. It wasn’t to the standard we have been recently.”

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