Both clubs had big wins in the first games of 2023 and it was Inverness that continued in style with a 4-1 win at Gayfield. Billy Mckay, who scored a hat-trick last week, opened the scoring at the back post in the ninth minute but Ben El-Mhanni levelled fifteen minutes later when he slotted into the bottom corner. Jay Henderson put us ahead just before the break as he lifted a shot high into the net from inside the box. Twenty minutes into the second half Dan Mackay shot into the bottom corner to double our advantage. Substitute Lewis Nicolson concluded the scoring in the 86th minute with a header from sub Steven Boyd's cross. Great win on the road for the Caley Jags that moves us into sixth place in the table, eleven points behind table toppers Queens Park who we face next week. Great start to 2023 for the Caley Jags with two big wins on the bounce.
Wallace Duffy returned to the starting XI after suspension and Zak Delaney showed no adverse reaction to continue at left back. Jay Henderson played his second game for the club. No other returnees and Max Ram looks to have been added to the still extensive injury list. Arbroath had four new signings in the squad with Ben El-Mhannie, Balde and Adarkwa all starting.
Arbroath got the game underway but it was the visitors that took an early lead. Good work by Lewis Hyde down the right and his low cross saw Dan Mackay take a swipe at the ball. He sclaffed it somewhat but one again it was poacher extraordinaire Billy Mckay who reacted best to get to the ball at the back post to knock it in from less than a yard. Great start for the visitors.
Sean Ardarkwa cut in from the left but his curling shot from the edge of the box dipped just over the bar. However the hosts were level when the tidy Yasin Ben El-Mhannie met a low João Baldé cross into the box to slot home from around twelve yards, his first goal for Arbroath after two great assists last week against Dundee.
Inverness almost regained the lead immediately but for Thomas O'Brien with a goal line clearance from Billy Mckay. Five minutes before the interval the bustling Ardarkwa shot just wide across the face of Ridgers' goal with the keeper scrambling across his line to cover his far post.
Just on the break Jay Henderson opened his Caley Jags account after a corner fell to him around the penalty spot. It appears that his knee made contact with the ball and it lifted into the top of the net above the floundering defenders. Maybe Inverness could consider themselves slightly fortunate to go in ahead at the interval, but thems the breaks.
HALF TIME: 1-2
After half time it was encouraging to see Inverness looking to build on their first half advantage. Sean Welsh fired a free kick at Gaston, the keeper gathering the curling ball at the second attempt. Gaston did brilliantly to deny Billy Mckay from six yards after Aaron Doran flashed a low ball into the box from the right side. From the resultant corner, Gaston again did brilliantly to deny Mckay as tried to divert Sean Welsh's header into the net, the keeper clawing the header away from danger. Inverness looked likely to run away with the game early in the second half. Dan Mackay gave us the cushion to do just that as he slotted home a through ball from Welsh after we broke play up in the right midfield area. Unfortunately Mackay was replaced by Lewis Nicolson with fifteen minutes remaining after taking a sore one, hopefully just bruising as hinted at by Billy Dodds after the game.
Ben El-Mhannie drilled a shot just the wrong side of the post as Arbroath tried to respond, but it was a bit of too little too late and Aaron Doran did well down the left before drilling a dangerous low cross into the box that was heading for a tap-in before a defender sliced it over his own bar. The last goal was the icing on the cake when substitute Lewis Nicolson nudged a header back across the six yard box and into an unguarded net. Mckay and then Steven Boyd combined to set up the chance which Lewis executed exquisitely, his second goal for the club enjoyed muchly by the 143 away fans at Gayfield.
FULL TIME: 1-4
Downside of this win was another injury for Dan Mackay. Great to see Jay Henderson and Lewis Nicolson getting amongst the goals and another for Billy Mckay as he chases Dennis Wyness' scoring record of 102 goals. Billy is now on 90.
Arbroath is never an easy place to get a win, never mind a big one, we'll take that.