300 fans, half a stream & a broken corner flag.
James Keatings opened the scoring midway through the first half after Miles Storey broke forward before squaring to Keatings who calmly stroked a low shot into the net from fifteen yards. We had hit the woodwork twice in the first half through Storey without actually dominating. Scott Allardice doubled the lead after the hour. There was no further scoring but it turned out to be a comfortable win for the hosts with keeper Mark Ridgers restricted to catching crosses as Raith failed to trouble him. Jamie MacDonald at the opposite end kept Raith interested with three or four great saves coupled with some wayward efforts from our busy forwards.
After matchday five, Dunfermline now head the table after their win over Hearts on Friday night coupled with Raith Rovers losing at Inverness. Ayr united dumped Dundee as well so the league table now looks like this with the Caley Jags climbing to the middle of the table. Hearts do have a game in hand against Alloa Athletic.
It was the first game that fans were allowed into the stadium since the start of the covid19 pandemic. The North and South Stands were used to comply with social distancing and Raith Rovers were the visitors. Inverness still had a number of absentees through injury including David Carson, Lewis Toshney, Kevin McHattie and Wallace Duffy. We welcomed Aaron Doran and Miles Storey back to the squad over the last couple of games and Shane Sutherland who scored the winner last week against East Fife. Sean Welsh made the bench and Brad Mckay returned at right back with Duffy injured.
Here's the managers speaking on BBC Sport:
Inverness CT manager John Robertson: "Everything was great today. It was great to have fans back. Credit to both sets of player, they put on a very good show for them. It was a great game of football between two good teams."We took our chances well. We played really well but we had to because Raith Rovers are a very, very good side. It was a very, very good performance."
Raith Rovers assistant manager Paul Smith: "We've had a fantastic start to the season but today we weren't quite at it. I thought Inverness deserved to win the game over 90 minutes."Jamie MacDonald had a couple of fantastic saves to keep us in the game. We had a lot of ball in the first half but our final ball wasn't good enough to create many chances."
The two sides met almost a couple of weeks ago on League Cup duty, the game ending all square at 3-3 in Kirkaldy. Would it be another goalfest or would the Championship fixture be a more sedate affair with the priority being not to concede. Not an easy task with Manny Duku in the opposition team.
The game kicked off at 3:00pm for those in the stadium. For those streaming, it was more likely that they were steaming as the SPFL failed to get round technical difficulties and the whole of the first half was missed.
With a small percentage of fans in the ground the Caley Jags played towards the South Stand in the first forty-five.
After ten minutes of posturing the game exploded onto the Raith Rovers bar as Miles Storey broke through the middle before moving right to unleash a ferocious shot that rocked the frame of the goal. What a strike that was and he was unlucky not to open the scoring with a sensational goal.
The hosts were restricting Rovers to fleeting glimpses of the Inverness penalty box with Mark Ridgers untroubled other than a weak shot from Kieran MacDonald comfortably saved a couple of minutes after Storey's blistering strike.
When Scott Allardice broke down a Rovers move in the centre circle, Storey sped forward like an express train. He held the ball up on the eighteen yard line before squaring to Keatings who was lurking around the penalty spot where he swept the ball home with ease to the delight of the South Stand. Not often you can say that at the Caledonian Stadium.
Half an hour gone and Storey hit the woodwork again as the ball found him in space ten yards from goal. He looked a stick on for a tap in but he somehow got under the ball and hit the top of the bar with his effort when it looked easier to score. He had another go five minutes before the break as we looked to double our lead, but his shot was wide of the mark.
Manny Duku was being well policed by Danny Devine and the most he saw of the ball was an effort blocked by our defence just before the break.
Half Time 1-0
We came out of the blocks fast at the start of the second half, maybe trying to impress the streamers who now had access to the game after missing the first forty-five.
A Storey cross was cleared to Roddy MacGregor who fired a shot across MacDonald but the keeper saved the low shot well. Storey again tested MacDonald but he stood up to the barrage and kept the ball out at the expense of a corner. All action now and a Keatings corner was close to crossing the line as it honed in on goal and minutes later the skillful Kai Kennedy set up Shane Sutherland but again the keeper did well to make a tremendous reflex save.
Kennedy left a couple of Raith players needing to pay to get back into the ground as he sent them the wrong way down the left before cutting along the line, however his cross come shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Would we rue these missed opportunities as Raith briefly threatened to get a grip on the game, Ridgers making a couple of routine stops.
A bizarre booking for Armstrong after he threw away the broken corner flag before taking a free kick, yellow card for something he did or said. The free kick fizzled out and soon after we scored a second. Kennedy popped up on the right and went for the byeline before pinging an inviting cross into the box. Storey collected and then Allardice picked up the ball from him in the box and slotted neatly into the bottom corner.
Another goal could have come two minutes later when the ball fell nicely to MacGregor on the edge of the box but he slashed his shot well wide from an inviting position. Storey and Harper combined to give Sutherland the chance at the far post but he slipped at the wrong time and the chance was gone.
Kennedy sent a great ball into the path of substitute Daniel Mackay but once more MacDonald saved well as Raith ran out of ideas and we finished the game strongly.
The full highlights on Caley Jags TV
Comfortable win ultimately but despite squandering a few great opportunities we were never really troubled by Raith. Our defence was superb today with Devine and Brad Mckay on top. Harper was wayward with balls from defence but we never got punished for it and he got better as the game went on. Allardice is the find of the season, great engine and an eye for goal. Keatings showed his class at times and Miles Storey had a day of less bloopers. He really should have scored when he skimmed the top of the bar. His first effort which was also missed by our own twitter feed was a spectacular shot from 25 yards which crashed back off the bar. MacGregor sliced badly with the goal at his mercy but put in a great shift. Shane was maybe the quieter of our front men today. The wee man with the wee legs was again outstanding. He has the ability to beat any defender he wants. Tremendous close skill. A tanner ball player in olde money. Although we led 1-0 at half time, in terms of possession and ascendancy, we were not out of sight despite hitting the bar twice. Out of the blocks early at the start of the second should have seen us coasting but missed chances and good saves kept it close.
Overall, we were worth the three points and good to see Welsh back on as a sub.
Here's the goals only, enjoy!