Inverness Caley Thistle (3) 3 Partick Thistle (0) 2

Att. 2,424

(Scorers: ICT – White 11, Rooney 22, Welsh pen 31; Partick – Spittal 82, Doolan 90)

IT was a match in which Partick Thistle were left with the proverbial mountain to climb. For Stuart Bannigan, peering up into the clouds of the season ahead, the summit still seems an awful long way off.

The Firhill midfielder, integral to a second-half recovery for Alan Archibald’s side in Inverness, was scathing in his criticism after his team were easily picked off by an exuberant Inverness in the first half.

But the criticism was also measured. Bannigan believes a squad featuring 15 new signings must shape up quickly but knows there is no magic wand to wave within the gelling process.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb in the first half. We weren’t good enough at all,” Bannigan admitted. “We showed a bit of fight in the second half, but it wasn’t the performance or result we wanted.

“The second half was about pride, mainly, but you never know what might happen. Had we scored the penalty before half-time, it could have been a different game. Ultimately, we gave ourselves far too much to do.”

Bannigan understood the negative reaction of a decent travelling support who booed the team from the field at the break, 3-0 down and all but dead and buried.

The second half reaction, he hopes, can provide a spark for better in the weeks and months ahead.

“It has been a transition period,” the 25-year-old, now in his ninth season at Firhill, said. “We’ve had a lot of players come in who are new to the fold and might take a while to bed in.

“Home form has been great – we’ve won all of our home games – but we just can’t find that formula away from home. We need to deal with that in the coming weeks because we can’t just keep getting beaten on the road.

“If that means grinding out results, a draw here or there, then we need to do that, it is going to take a little bit of time to gel properly.

“The fans are going to be disappointed in a first-half performance like that, of course they are. There were probably a few of them angry, which they have every right to be.

“At 3-0 down, it’s not acceptable, but I think we showed them in the second half we’re not going to just lie down.”

Bannigan’s own struggle to shake off the aftermath of a cruciate injury is well-documented, with Saturday, for all the general negativity, another big step forward.

“It has been a nightmare,” he said. “It would take an hour to talk through it all, but I’m just happy to be back. I felt really good today.

“I was really unlucky with an injury in pre-season which was a freak accident. I’ve come on now and played in the Morton game and then in Inverness for a good hour.

“I feel as if it is behind me and I’ve got over the hurdle on the mental side. Hopefully there will be a lot more minutes for me in coming weeks.”

Partick had the misfortune to encounter a rebuilt home team now firing on all cylinders after the toils of 12 months ago.

Victory took Caley Thistle, now the Championship’s only unbeaten side, to the top of the table with an unbeaten league run of 16 matches dating back into last season.

The Highlanders certainly looked like promotion material, tearing the Maryhill men apart in the first half. The late Partick flourish flattered Alan Archibald’s side, in truth.

With 11 minutes gone, Liam Polworth’s shot was turned onto the post by keeper Cammy Bell but Jordan White slid in under pressure to claim the opener.

It was 2-0 after 22 minutes with Polworth’s corner poorly dealt with before Shaun Rooney side-footed home from around eight yards.

There was verve and fluency in the home side’s passing and movement – and it was 3-0 just after the half-hour mark.

The excellent Polworth’s burst of pace into the box was halted by Brice Ntambwe’s grapple, bringing him crashing to the ground, before ex-Partick midfielder Sean Welsh swept in the penalty.

The Maryhill side won a questionable penalty just before the break when Polworth was adjudged to have clipped former Caley Thistle striker Miles Storey just inside the penalty area.

Storey, though, saw keeper Mark Ridgers dive to make a fine save.

With their small group of fans booing them off, Partick had to show a second-half response – and they did.

It was only in the last 10 minutes that pressure told, though, with Blair Spittal and substitute Kris Doolan netting consolation goals.

Inverness Caley Thistle (4-2-3-1) – Ridgers 7; Rooney 5 (McCart 42, 6), B. Mckay 7, Donaldson 7, Tremarco 7; Welsh 7, Chalmers 7; Walsh 7, Polworth 8, Doran 6 (Calder 76, 4); White 7 (Oakley 69, 4). Subs: Hoban, Austin, D. Mackay, Trafford.

Booked: Chalmers 47, Polworth 90

Partick Thistle (4-1-4-1) – Bell 6; Elliott 6, Keown 5, McGinty 5, Penrice 6; Ntambwe 3 (Bannigan 36, 6); Erskine 6, Spittal 6, Slater 6, Mbuyi-Mutombo 5 (Doolan 55, 5); Storey 5 (Quitongo 71, 4). Subs: Sneddon, Melbourne, Fitzpatrick, Jefferies.

Booked: Ntambwe 30, Bannigan 72

Referee: Greg Aitken. 6

Man of the match: Liam Polworth. Only a few weeks ago targeted by his own fans, Polworth was in superb form and in the thick of everything.