Alan Burrows at the Caledonian Stadium
Two first-half goals were enough to give Inverness a comfortable 2-0 victory over a lacklustre Motherwell.
Richie Foran’s early header and Billy McKay’s third goal in as many games nine minutes from the interval moved Caley Thistle two points clear of second-placed St Johnstone.
Motherwell, who were without Adam Cummins due to a back problem, brought in Bob McHugh and Paul Lawson at the expense of Zaine Francis Angol and Henri Anier following the 3-1 loss to Aberdeen last time out.
The hosts were unchanged from the team that triumphed 1-0 at Dundee United last weekend.
Carl Tremarco missed out due to suspension after being sent off for the under-20s in midweek, while Marley Watkins (ankle) and Curtis Allen (knee) were still sidelined.
Terry Butcher’s men were looking to maintain their perfect start to the new campaign and it took them just four minutes to get off and running.
Graeme Shinnie’s free kick towards the far post flew towards Richie Foran. The Irishman managed to find space and looped a header past the helpless Lee Hollis.
It almost went from bad to worse for the visitors when James Vincent almost doubled the home side’s lead, but a timely block by Stephen McManus diverted the shot narrowly over the crossbar following good work by Aaron Doran.
McCall’s men had made a sluggish start yet they almost levelled when Iain Vigurs set up Keith Lasley, but the visiting captain’s fierce drive from twelve yards was turned away by Inverness goalkeeper Dean Brill at his near post.
Paul Lawson will have been disappointed with his finish when he got on the end of the resulting corner but his effort from the ‘D’ flew high over the bar.
Inverness were dominating proceedings however and it took a last-ditch block by Shaun Hutchinson to prevent McKay from creating a clear goalscoring chance after being set up by Doran.
Doran was pulling the strings for the Highlanders and it was his incisive pass that was chased down behind the Well rear guard by David Raven, who found McKay to convert from close range in the 36th minute.
It could have got even better for Inverness as the interval approached, but Vincent was inches away from scoring with a spectacular volley from the edge of the area as he latched on to McKay’s flick.
Although the result and game could well have been out of sight, Bob McHugh will fell he ought to have hit the target with a shot from the edge of the box but like Lawson before him, he watched on frustrated as it sailed over the bar.
In a bid to try and salvage something from the game, Stuart McCall sent on Stuart Carswell and Anier at the start of the second half for Lawson and McHugh.
The change seemed to have the desired effect as James McFadden’s surge into the penalty area saw him stand up a cross to the back post that Anier connected with, but Raven was well positioned to make the block.
Motherwell then spurned a great chance to halve the deficit as Brill misjudged Vigurs’ corner, yet Hutchinson could not quite keep his header on target as it landed on the roof of the net.
The Steelmen were showing more as an attacking force and looked to have strong claims for a penalty as Raven caught Vigurs from behind, but referee Iain Brines was not interested and waved away the visitors’ protests.
Hollis denied Doran as the game entered its final ten minutes and from the resultant corner, Foran prodded an effort narrowly wide at the back post.
At the other end, Anier could and perhaps should have target with an effort from just inside the box but it once again flew wide of target.
But the hard work had been done by Inverness in the opening half as they eased past Motherwell to keep up their 100 per cent opening to the campaign.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at the Caledonian Stadium
FT: Inverness CT 2 – 0 Motherwell
90mins: 3 minutes added on
89mins: ICT sub, Williams on for Doran
88mins: Decent chance there for a late goal. Anier turned on the edge of the box but his drive whistled past the post.
84mins: ICT sub, McKay off for Agdestein
82mins: ICT sub, Polworth on for Vincent
80mins: Vigurs booked for a trip on Shinnie
76mins: Fine save from Hollis to deny Doran from 20 yards!! From the corner, Foran pokes it just past,
65mins: Motherwell sub, Francis-Angol on for McFadden
61mins: Looked like a certain penalty there! Vigurs tripped in the box but ref waves it away much to Lasley’s annoyance
59mins: Ramsden swings a cross in to the edge of the box. Sutton tries to hit it on the spin but hooks it well over.
56mins: Decent spell here. Corner to Motherwell swung in by Vigurs….Hutchinson heads inches over!
51mins: Perhaps the best chance of the game for ‘Well. McFadden picked out Anier at the back post but his shot was well blocked.
50mins: Danger as Foran sneaks in between McManus and Ramsden and heads just over. That said, it’s been a positive start from Motherwell
47mins: Lasley sends Anier racing clear through but Raven recovers and wins his side a free-kick
Second half underway. Come on!
Motherwell subs at half-time: Anier and Carswell on for Lawson and McHugh
HT: Inverness CT 2 – 0 Motherwell
41mins: Very nearly 3 there! After some tidy build-up play, Vincent see’s his shot fly inches over the bar
39mins: Half a chance there for Motherwell but Sutton’s header from McFadden’s cross is tame and straight at Brill
35mins: GOAL! McKay makes it 2-0! Motherwell cut open and he converts Raven’s cut-back with ease
30mins: McHugh blasts his shot from 30 yards well wide and over. Claims it took a deflection, ref disagrees.
Ramsden clips it in but ICT head clear.
28mins: Nice footwork from McFadden wins a FK 35 yards out. Too far for a shot?
26mins: Far too easy as Vincent strolls through the ‘Well defence and squares to McKay. Thankfully Hutchinson is alert and slides it clear
22mins: Meekings downs injured at the minute. Strangely enough it looked like he got hacked down by his own team-mate
15mins: Raven somehow finds himself with acres of space on the edge of our box. Had too much time to think about it and scuffed it wide.
11mins: Corner to Motherwell after Brill does well to divert Lasley’s shot wide. Set-piece comes to nothing.
3mins: GOAL! Foran makes it 1-0. Free-kick floated in and it’s a fine diving header diverted past Hollis.
Motherwell kick the game off after both sides switch ends. #COYW
Inverness CT manager Terry Butcher:
“It was a good first half performance, but I felt that overall it was a game of two halves.
“We knew that with the wind in the second half Motherwell with get it forward to John Sutton, while they have good pace in their team.
“They caused us problems, but we defended well and showed a lot of grit, resilience and steel. That’s the new mantra at this club – stamina, steel and style.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We talked before the game about settling into the match, but then we find ourselves a goal down after four minutes.
“I thought that the tempo of the first half just wasn’t good enough, so there’s a lot of work to do.
“The second half from us was better, but it had to be.
“I thought they had the most outstanding player on the pitch in Richie Foran. He defended set pieces in their box, he won tackles in the midfield and scored a goal.
“It was a really disappointing performance and result. We have to show a bit more than we did against Inverness.”