Alan Burrows at the Caledonian Stadium
Motherwell moved into second place in the Scottish Premiership as Iain Vigurs’ late strike gave them a 2-1 victory over Inverness.
Henri Anier’s 39th-minute goal was all that separated the teams at the interval, before Ryan Christie brought Caley level with 16 minutes to play.
The hosts’ European ambitions, however, suffered a blow when Vigurs scored eight minutes from time against the run of play.
Inverness manager John Hughes was forced to shuffle the pack with Josh Meekings suspended after being sent-off against St Mirren last time out, while Richie Foran (knee) and Aaron Doran (hamstring) remained on the sidelines.
Danny Devine came in to partner Gary Warren in central defence, while Ryan Esson, making his first appearance of the season, and Carl Tremarco were given starts. Dean Brill and Ryan Christie dropped to a six-man bench.
Motherwell made three changes from the side that were beaten 2-1 by Kilmarnock at the weekend.
Anier, Fraser Kerr and Jack Leitch replaced Lionel Ainsworth, Zaine Francis-Angol and Craig Moore, who were all amongst the substitutes.
With both teams looking to enhance their European aspirations, the game started brightly with chances at either end.
Esson had to punch away Vigurs inswinging free-kick, while Graeme Shinnie opted to try his luck from 25 yards with a drive that whistled narrowly past the upright.
Greg Tansey then had an effort from similar distance for Caley as the visitors partially cleared a corner, but it fizzed high over the crossbar.
Both teams were fancying their chances from distance, Craig Reid next to fire one in from 30 yards for Motherwell that stung the palms of Esson.
Neither side were posing a sustained threat in the final third until Kerr’s long ball split the home defence, allowing Anier to run through and take a touch before clinically dispatching a low effort from 16 yards into the corner of the net via the inside of the post.
Inverness departed for the dressing room to audible jeers from some of the home support, frustrated by the lack of cutting edge shown by their team.
Motherwell looked content to sit in and soak up the pressure at the beginning of the second half, although Vigurs showed the visiting team were still a threat with a floated free-kick from 25 yards that landed on the roof of the net.
Inverness needed something to provide a spark for them in the final-third and only a fine block by Stephen McManus thwarted Tansey as he pulled the trigger from James Vincent’s incisive pass.
Tansey then came even closer moments later, firing one in from 30 yards that had Gunnar Nielsen beaten, but rattled the post before bouncing away to safety.
Just as frustration was beginning to set in, substitute Christie breathed new life into Caley’s chances of a victory with 74 minutes gone.
The ball broke to the youngster, a product of the club’s youth system, and he struck it sweetly from 25 yards finding the corner of the goal beyond the dive of the despairing Nielsen. Stuart McCall was claiming for a foul on Craig Moore in the build-up and, looking at the television pictures, it looks as if he’s got a strong case.
Although the momentum looked as if it was with the home side, it would be Motherwell who would emerge with the three points courtesy of an 82nd-minute winner.
Devine was somehow left isolated with Vigurs and Craig Moore, who worked several passes between them, before Vigurs finished off the quickfire counter-attack with composed outside of the boot effort from just inside the 18-yard box. It was a goal to win any game, a piece of magic from the former Inverness man.
‘Well move a point above Aberdeen in the table, but it might be shortlived with the Dons in the Capital to face Hearts less than 24 hours later.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at the Caledonian Stadium
A FANTASTIC three points for The ‘Well!!!! #ICTFCvMFC
FT: Inverness CT 1 – 2 Motherwell #ICTFCvMFC
2 minutes added on #ICTFCvMFC
87mins: Motherwell sub, Leitch makes way for Cadden #ICTFCvMFC
83mins: VIGURS makes it 2-1 with a superb outside of the boot finish after good work from Moore.#ICTFCvMFC
73mins: GOAL! Christie pulls ICT level with a low 20 yard strike #ICTFCvMFC
And a Motherwell sub, Moore on for Anier #ICTFCvMFC
66mins: ICT sub, Watkins on for Raven #ICTFCvMFC
65mins: Great strike from Tansey off the bar from 30 yards. A let off. #ICTFCvMFC
63mins: Great block from McManus to deny Christie. From the corner, Sutton heads clear #ICTFCvMFC
61mins: ICT sub, Christie on for Polworth #ICTFCvMFC
60mins: Nielsen comes out to gather Tremarco’s ball in #ICTFCvMFC
54mins: Vigurs curls it just over #ICTFCvMFC
53mins: Sutton wins a free-kick in a great position, 25 yards out in a central position. #ICTFCvMFC
Both side back out for the second half. ‘Well make a sub, Francis-Angol on for Reid. #ICTFCvMFC
A largely uneventful first half, the only real moment of quality leading to the goal to give ‘Well the lead going into the second half
HT: Inverness CT 0 – 1 Motherwell #ICTFCvMFC
42mins: Corner to ICT, cleared by Nielsen #ICTFCvMFC
40mins: First booking of the game, Vigurs makes his way in the ref’s book. #ICTFCvMFC
39mins: Kerr floats a great ball over the top and ANIER takes a touch and slots it past Esson, in off the post! 0-1 #ICTFCvMFC
37mins: Corner to ICT after McManus blocks Shinnie’s cross. Sutton heads the delivery clear #ICTFCvMFC
34mins: Anier wins ‘Well a corner… Vigurs swings it in but Warren sweeps it clear #ICTFCvMFC
26mins: Great effort from Reid from 30 yards. Stings Esson’s palms with a powerful drive #ICTFCvMFC
21mins: Leitch wins another free-kick, this time it’s wide on the left. Vigurs delivers well but nobody takes advantage #ICTFCvMFC
20mins: Corner to ICT which drops to Tansey 25 yards out. Thankfully it’s blazed well over #ICTFCvMFC
18mins: Ambitious attempt from Vigurs as he volleys it from 25 yards. Well wide #ICTFCvMFC
16mins: Sutton flicks on a header to Anier who knocks it around the corner for Leitch. He’s a little off balance and crosses well over
12mins: ICT counter and Shinnie’s fine effort from 25 yards is tipped around the post #ICTFCvMFC
12mins: Vigurs gets the first shot on target of the game but it’s a tame effort from 20 yards #ICTFCvMFC
5mins: Free-kick to ‘Well about 6 yards outside the box on the right wing….great delivery from Vigurs but Esson punches clear #ICTFCvMFC
Shinne and McKay get the game underway #ICTFCvMFC
Formalities over, it’s time for kick-off #ICTFCvMFC
Inverness CT manager John Hughes:
“The other teams are getting away from us now. However, we have to regroup and go again. “This is a test of character for us. We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
‘It’s a brilliant result for us. Not many people would have given us a chance after the way we lost at the weekend.
“We’ve now got six games to go. The players can get all the rest they want in the summer unless we’re back on July 3 for the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. It’s not a time now to rest. The players have got to give everything and they did that tonight.”