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Crucial win for Caley Thistle after touch battle of wills with gritty Arbroath

By Alasdair Fraser

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Todorov, in action here against Raith, scroed the winner against Arbroath,
Todorov, in action here against Raith, scroed the winner against Arbroath,

Inverness Caley Thistle (0) 1 Arbroath (0) 0

(Scorer: Todorov 69)

Nikolay Todorov struck with a brilliantly-taken second half header to grasp Caley Thistle a vital three points at home to Arbroath.

The Inverness men toiled at times to create chances against the gritty part-timers but the Bulgarian’s touch of class after 69 minutes proved decisive.

It was Todorov’s sixth goal of the season and victory took the hosts in to the top four play-off positions above Dundee, at least temporarily ahead of tonight’s Dens Park clash with Dunfermline.

Scott Allan’s sudden arrival on-loan from Hibs on the morning of the match provided a significant boost to a host team finding form and momentum after three straight victories.

The midfielder, who faced a five-month absence after being diagnosed with the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, immediately took his place on the home bench.

Temporary manager Neil McCann made six changes in all from the team that sealed a Scottish Cup win away to Buckie Thistle on Tuesday evening, with left-back Cameron Harper a notable starter after missing four games through injury.

Daniel MacKay shook off a hamstring concern to play after his winning goal in the midweek cup tie.

Arbroath had won here last season and led in Inverness in atrocious storm winds in October before going down 3-1.

Ross County manager John Hughes was an interested spectator in the main stand ahead of Friday’s Scottish Cup derby in Dingwall as the hosts kicked off into a strong breeze.

They dominated early play without troubling Red Lichties’ keeper Derek Gaston with anything more than a couple of swirling high balls.

Just inside 16 minutes, though, Arbroath threatened first on the break.

A through pass from midfield sent Dale Hillson tearing through at the home defence and, with defenders closing in, he fired just wide of Mark Ridgers’ right-hand post from the edge of the area.

Just past the midway point in the half, David Carson knocked the ball into the net close-in after a high Robbie Deas header to the far post, but the off-side flag cut short home celebrations.

Roddy MacGregor also pulled a low, left-foot attempt from 20 yards just wide of the keeper’s left-hand post on the half hour.

Nikolay Todorov also failed to get his head properly onto a dangerous, angled Danny Devine delivery from deep right, with the ball spinning harmlessly for a goal-kick.

And Caley Thistle could easily have fallen behind right on half-time when Colin Hamilton’s free header from a corner hurtled towards the top corner of the net.

With Ridgers struggling to make it, Sean Welsh managed to leap to head to safety.

Dick Campbell’s side made the stringer start to the second period and it wasn’t long before McCann had new signing Allan warming up to make his debut after 54 minutes.

Miles Storey also joined the fray with Roddy Macgregor and Shane Sutherland replaced.

Allan displayed some nice touches, but the home side, up to that point, struggled to make inroads through Arbroath’s defences and get the ball into their penalty area.

That all changed with one set piece after 69 minutes.

MacKay won a free-kick on the right, 35 yards out. Cameron Harper floated a long ball into the danger area and Todorov threw himself at it to angle a fine header past Derek Gaston from six or seven yards.

Soon after the restart, substitute Storey let rip from 22 yards but saw Gaston leap superbly to his right to turn it around the post.

Caley Thistle faced several corners in the latter stages but managed to comfortably absorb the Arbroath pressure.

INVERNESS CT (4-4-1-1): Ridgers; Carson, Devine, Deas, Harper; MacGregor (Allan 54), Allardice, Welsh, D. MacKay; Sutherland 5 (Storey 54); Todorov (McHattie 88). Subs: C. MacKay, Keatings, Vincent, Storey, Lyall, Allan.

ARBROATH (4-4-2): Gaston; Gold, Little, O’Brien, C. Hamilton; McKenna (Low 84), Williamson (Whatley 81), Craigen (Stewart 63), Moore; Hillson, J. Hamilton. Subs: Gallacher, Whatley, Doolan, Pignatiello, Smith.

Booked: Craigen 28

Referee: Colin Steven

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