Caley Thistle lose out as Dundee United ease to 3-0 victory in Championship
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Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0
Dundee United 3 (Rooney OG, Clark, Shankland)
Inverness Caledonian Thistle lost pace at the top of the Championship after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Dundee United.
In a feisty game, the league leaders took a first-half lead, but when ICT could not capitalise on a bright spell United took full advantage and stretched ahead through Nicky Clark and Lawrence Shankland.
There was no lack of bite in the first half as Caley Thistle and United clashed several times in hard-hitting challenges.
But goalmouth action was hard to come by, and instead tackles were flying in in the middle third.
Charlie Trafford took a sore one, and to add insult to injury United took the lead through an own-goal in the 20th minute.
Paul McMullan found some space on the right side of the box, and powered a low cross into the middle where ICT full back Shaun Rooney deflected the ball into his own net via the woodwork.
Just after the half-hour mark, Jamie McCart and Lawrence Shankland were involved in an off the ball incident right in front of the dugouts.
Both men went to the deck, but Inverness were convinced the Scotland striker threw an elbow at the defender.
Referee Grant Irvine talked to both men as well as both sets of managers, but took no further action.
Louis Appere went close with a header that trickled just the wrong side of the post, but it was James Keatings who had the best chance of the half to equalise.
Aaron Doran had a shot from the edge of the box, but it did not get as far as goal – instead falling to an off-balance Keatings inside the six-yard box who was denied by a good save from Benjamin Siegrist.
Mark Ridgers was forced into a top save in the 48th minute after Keatings had given the ball away in his own half.
Ian Harkes picked the ball up and have a shot from distance, and it was veering away from the keeper and into the top corner until Ridgers at full stretch got fingertips to it.
United kept the pressure, and Appere sent Calum Butcher through having made the run from midfield, only to see Ridgers out quickly to meet him and make the save with his feet.
Keatings did go close around 53 minutes in, just going over with a free kick from 25 yards out.
Keatings had another golden opportunity to level when he was left unmarked at the back post, but his header from Tom Walsh's cross bounced over the bar.
Just as it looked like Caley Thistle were the better team and looking good for an equaliser though, Nicky Clark picked up the ball in space and fired it into the roof of the Inverness net to double United's advantage.
United killed the game off in the 76th minute from the penalty spot.
Miles Storey took down Liam Smith just inside the box, and Shankland stepped up to send Ridgers the wrong way from 12 yards out.
Ridgers had to be off his mark quickly once more to prevent Cammy Smith making it 4-0, before Keatings went close with a volley from the edge of the box at the other end.