Inverness continued their good run of form with a confident victory over Falkirk at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The visitors came into the match on the back of a thumping 6-1 victory against second-top Dundee United on Saturday while the Highlanders went down 1-0 to league leaders St Mirren in Paisley.
The game started off slowly with both sides failing to create many openings. The first shot of the match came on 7 minutes when Andrew Nelson shot from outside of the penalty box but his effort didn’t test Mark Ridgers in the Caley goal.
Only three minutes later, the Bairns were punished when George Oakley fired home. The Englishman grabbed his 6th goal of the season after slotting his right-footed effort past Robbie Thomson and into the net.
Jake Mulraney for John Robertson’s men had a chance to double the lead soon after but his effort went over the bar before Thomas Robson had a similar chance at the other end just seconds later but the full-back was unable to convert as his attempt also went off-target.
Joe Chalmers tried a speculative effort which went wide before Jordan McGhee tried his luck for Paul Hartley’s men from a direct free-kick, but the defender was unable to test former Hearts goalkeeper Ridgers.
Gary Warren was next to try his luck, with the Inverness skipper seeing Thomson save his effort in the top right-hand corner. Only two minutes later though and the second goal did arrive for the Highlanders. Connor Bell tucked away the chance after being set-up by Mulraney, who was next on the score-sheet.
Just seconds after the kick-off, it was three for the hosts as the winger put the game beyond all doubt with 60 minutes still remaining. Similarly to Bell, the strike was from the centre of the box, leaving Thomson helpless as it nestled into the back of the net.
Just five minutes later, however, Robertson was forced into a substitution; Riccardo Calder was brought on for the injured Carl Tremarco, with the former Aston Villa winger filling in at left-back in the absence of any natural replacement for the Scouser.
The first-half drew to a close without any more goal-scoring chances, which allowed Hartley to shake his side up at the break. The ex-Alloa and Dundee gaffer brought Paul Watson on for Jordan McGhee at half-time as the Bairns looked to fight their way back into the match.
With 49 minutes on the clock, the home side suffered another injury set-back, with influential winger Mulraney being replaced through injury by Aaron Doran. Striker Kevin O’Hara was thrown on for Sean Welsh, after the youngster returned from an 8-match suspension. The attacker came on 13 minutes into the second period, with Falkirk failing to create many chances. Aaron Muirhead had tried his luck but was once again off-target in a frustrating evening for the visitors.
Momentum would build as Lewis Kidd forced Ridgers into his first save of the evening before Peter Grant flashed a header wide as the clock continued ticking down. Rory Loy replaced Nelson up front in Hartley’s last throw of the dice with just under 20 minutes remaining, as the second-bottom Championship outfit pushed for a late turn in fortunes.
Oakley and Doran saw Thomson save efforts before Loy went close as his shot went narrowly wide of Ridgers left-hand post. Oakley then had another golden chance but the ex-AFC Wimbledon forward’s header was over the bar following a corner.
The 22-year-old continued to pester the Bairns backline as the game entered the final 10 minutes: the striker dragged a shot wide before John Baird came on for Connor Bell to give some fresh legs at the top end of the pitch in the final switch of the evening.
Ridgers stopped well from O’Hara but moments later his clean-sheet was gone as Louis Longridge fired high into the net after being set up by Craig Sibbald to pull one back for the away side late on. It was only a consolation goal, though. as Baird would round-off the evening with Inverness’ fourth just two minutes later.
This wasn’t before Longridge had tried his luck again but this time the ex-Hamilton attacker was off-target; the former Falkirk forward, Baird, was then on-hand at the other end to tuck home his header as the experienced striker made an impact off the bench to give Robertson food for thought heading into Saturday’s math against Queen of the South.
Hartley will be disappointed with the way his side couldn’t follow-up their impressive demolition of Dundee United with another positive result here. Robertson will be delighted with the win on the other hand, with the Highlanders now only three points off fourth place – with Caley coming up against Queens on Saturday in what promises to be a cracker!
FULL-TIME: Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4-1 Falkirk
28. Mark Ridgers
22. Brad McKay
5. Gary Warren
23. Coll Donaldson
3. Carl Tremarco (Riccardo Calder 35′)
15. Jake Mulraney (Aaron Doran 49′)
7. Liam Polworth
11. Iain Vigurs
4. Joe Chalmers
20. Connor Bell (John Baird 82′)
14. George Oakley
1. Ryan Esson (GK)
9. John Baird
10. Aaron Doran
16. Riccardo Calder
17. Colin Seedorf
24. Charlie Trafford
27. Daniel Mackay
1. Robbie Thomson
3. Jordan McGhee (Paul Watson 45′)
4. Aaron Muirhead
5. Peter Grant
16. Reghan Tumilty
2. Lewis Kidd
45. Sean Welsh (Kevin O’Hara 58′)
10. Craig Sibbald
42. Thomas Robson
14. Louis Longridge
43. Andrew Nelson (Rory Loy 71′)
31. Robbie Mutch (GK)
6. Joe McKee
17. Alex Harris
20. Kevin O’Hara
28. James Craigen
33. Rory Loy
44. Paul Watson
Referee: John Beaton