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REACTION + REPORT: Was there Duncan Ferguson fury after late collapse brought the Everton legend’s first Caley Thistle defeat?

By Alasdair Fraser

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Duncan Ferguson felt the frustration as Caley Thistle suffered a first defeat under his charge. Picture: Ken Macpherson.
Duncan Ferguson felt the frustration as Caley Thistle suffered a first defeat under his charge. Picture: Ken Macpherson.

Caley Thistle (0) 1

Raith Rovers (0) 2

Duncan Ferguson tonight blamed panic in the Caley Thistle ranks for the late collapse that brought his first defeat since taking the manager’s job at the end of September.

Raith Rovers had been the better side in the first half on an icy Caledonian Stadium surface and a bizarre ‘goal that never was’ saw the ball clearly cross Mark Ridgers’ line only for play to continue.

After the break, there was much more to warm the home support.

Billy Mckay capitalised on a wonderful David Wotherspoon cross to head the opener after 61 minutes.

But the Kirkcaldy side, now just one point behind Championship title favourites Dundee United, cranked up the pressure in the closing stages and, if truth be told, deserved their victory.

The superb Lewis Vaughan hammered in an equaliser with four minutes of the 90 remaining and then, almost four minutes into stoppage time, Luis Longstaff’s foul on Sam Stanton allowed Jamie Gullan to rocket a penalty kick winner into the top corner of the net.

That ended Ferguson’s seven-game unbeaten streak since embracing the move north.

It gave reporters a first glimpse of big Dunc’s demeanour after defeat, but he cut a calm, if frustrated figure.

“It was a cruel way to lose it,” Ferguson lamented.

ICT manager Duncan Ferguson.
ICT manager Duncan Ferguson.

“In the first half, we never got started to be honest. We rode our luck going in 0-0 at half-time. I was really happy, considering how we’d played.

“In the second half, we did much better and managed to get our noses in front.

“We missed a couple of good chances, hit the bar and had a counter-attacking opportunity.

“A second goal would have been crucial for us.

“We’re happy with the performance in the second half. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t see out the second half.

“A wee bit of panic set in and we couldn’t clear our lines, particularly for the penalty award. We had four or five opportunities to get rid of the ball, but never.”

Reflecting on the loss of that unbeaten streak, he added: “We always said the defeat would come, but it's just a shame the way it happened.

“We’re going into the last five minutes 1-0 up and we’ve got three points. If you can’t win it, don’t lose it.

“When they scored the first goal, we thought we could squeeze out a draw – we’d have been happy with that.

“Unfortunately, they threw the ball in the box regularly and we just couldn’t see it through.”

“They’re a good team and that’s why they have only lost the one game.

“But really that second goal for us would have put the game to bed.”

It was Raith’s first victory at the Caledonian Stadium since October 2000 – at the 19th attempt.

Back in mid-September, the Stark’s Park team had savoured their first win over Inverness since that 2-1 triumph in the Highlands 23 years before.

That had proven Billy Dodds last game in charge.

The visitors, who could muster just five substitutes amid injury troubles, immediately looked in the mood for a repeat.

They opened with all guns blazing and the hosts looked shaky - no more so than when a Lewis Vaughan shot from eight yards seemed to cross the line.

Keeper Mark Ridgers got his hands to it, but seemed to fumble it just inside his right hand post.

The main stand-side linesman didn’t react and howls from the Raith players for a goal were ignored by referee Duncan Williams.

It was one VAR, if in operation, might well have reversed.

Some of Raith’s play was superb and they had a penalty appeal waved away after 35 minutes, when Dylan Easton went down at the far corner of the home penalty area near the bye-line after a challenge from Niko Ujdur

Again, referee Williams said ‘no’.

Three minutes later, Josh Mullin’s corner picked out Jack Hamilton rising unmarked eight yards out, but his header bounced straight into Ridgers’ grasp.

Vaughan then flashed a shot just wide of target from 20 yards.

In contrast to the first half, it was the hosts who turned the screw and heavy pressure told after 61 minutes.

The hosts fizzed the ball about with confidence, with Charlie Gilmour working it to the right where veteran David Wotherspoon swirled in a wonderful cross from near the corner flag.

In came Billy Mckay at pace to nod past Kevin Dabrowski from inside the six-yard area.

Billy McKay. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Billy McKay. Picture: Ken Macpherson

It was Mckay’s sixth goal of the season, with three in the last four matches.

Raith almost retaliated immediately with Aidan Connelly’s left foot strike almost skimming the top of the bar.

A Caley Jags counter saw substitute Luis Longstaff strike low and hard, but Kevin Dubrawski pushed it wide.

Sam Stanton then broke behind the home defence but fluffed his finish high over the bar.

A curling Wotherspoon free-kick then found Ujdur hammering a header wide from 10 yards.

Then Max Anderson struck the Raith bar from close-in after Longstaff’s cutback.

Raith’s recovery sparked with four minutes of the 90 remaining.

Sustained pressure ended with Vaughan, Raith’s best player all day, taking a Josh Mullin supply and dragging it back onto his left foot for a deflected strike through bodies from 16 yards.

The home collapse was complete after Longstaff miscontrolled and fouled Sam Stanton in the box.

Substitute Jamie Gullan rocketed the winning penalty into the top right corner.

INVERNESS CT (3-4-2-1): Ridgers 6; Ujdur 7, Devine 6 (Longstaff 63, 6), Boyes 7; Duffy 6, Gilmour 8, Anderson 7, Harper 6; Shaw 6, Wotherspoon 7 (Welsh 79, 4); Mckay 7 (Sheridan 79, 4). Subs: MacKay, Welsh, Delaney, Davidson, Lodovica, Brooks, Thompson.

Booked: Devine 33, Gilmour 82

RAITH ROVERS (3-5-2) - Dabrowski 6; Corr 6, Dick 7, O’Reilly 6; Connolly 6 (Smith 73, 5), Byrne 7, Mullin 7, Easton 7, Stanton 7; Vaughan 8 (Hannah 90, 2), Hamilton 6 (Gullan 73, 5). Subs: Thomson, McGIll, Masson.

Booked: Corr 75, Gullan 90

Referee: Duncan Williams 6

Man of the match: Charlie Gilmour (ICT) - The former Arsenal youth academy graduate has rebuilt his career in Inverness after horrendous injury troubles and is now beginning to show the class that had him rubbing shoulders with Saka, Nketiah and Co. Some great passing and movement, but workrate exemplary too.

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