AARON DORAN insists Caley Thistle only have to turn to the history books for proof they can close a 10-point gap on Championship leaders Dundee United.

In John Robertson’s first spell in charge, the Highlanders looked dead and buried before storming back through a 10-game unbeaten run to pip Clyde on the final day of 2003/04.

Then, six years later, Terry Butcher’s relegated team bounced back to overturn a 15-point chasm on Dundee to seal an immediate top-flight return with two games to spare.

Doran, who arrived at the club the following year on loan from Blackburn Rovers, insists talk of United sailing into the Premiership sunset is premature.

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The 28 year-old Irishman, fresh from netting a vital winner against Dundee in Saturday’s revitalising victory, said: “I think the last time the club got promoted they were a good few points behind Dundee.

“I’m told it was similar in the gaffer’s first spell here when they reached the SPL for the first time. They went on a big winning run in both those campaigns and we can do it, too – we just need to get our heads down and train well, like we have been.

“We could have scored a few more out there against Dundee, but it is just good to get the win on the board and we look forward to next week now. I know it will be tough. Dundee United are a big club and they’ve spent some money.

“But if we play our stuff and every player puts in performances like we did today, it will be a lot closer than it is now.”

Doran admits the players were stung by recent criticisms and determined to prove their mettle after losing three and drawing one of their previous five league matches.

He said: “The past few results in the league weren’t good enough, so to come away with a result like that is brilliant for the team and for the club.

“It was great defending from the lads. You saw some last-ditch tackles from guys like Coll Donaldson and a tremendous clearance off the line by Carl Tremarco. Other than that, I don’t think they broke us down too much. Our goalkeeper Mark Ridgers didn’t have too much to do.

“We controlled the game. It was a good day for us.”

Doran’s 16th minute winning goal was a cracker from the tightest of angles after a cross ball from David Carson, who Doran credited for a huge part in the winning display.

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He added: “I remember the ball coming across and I knew I had to put it back across the goalkeeper, there was nowhere else to put it. Luckily it has gone in the top corner, just inside the post.

“I should have had another one in the second half really, so that’s a bit disappointing, but it is good to get the winner.

"David Carson showed a lot of desire to get to the ball to send the cross in. He’s been brilliant and he presses like mad – he’s a like a little dog running around the park. He’s a little terrier. It was a tremendous performance by him today and you could see everyone reacting to what he did. He pressed and we all followed.

“We shows everybody we really wanted to win today. We want to start moving back up the league. We actually had a pretty decent start to the season. The last couple of results in the league haven’t been good enough and we haven’t been good enough in front of goal or even in defence.

“To get two clean sheets in a row now, it bodes well for us. We can kick on next week. We want to be in the mix come the end of the season. We know Dundee United have pulled away a little bit, but there are a lot of games to go.”

After just one win in five games in the league, the hosts were desperate for a change in fortunes.

Manager John Robertson tweaked his side’s shape slightly, with Canada cap Charlie Trafford the deep midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

There was immediately a look of greater solidity against a Dundee side similarly stung by criticism after a home defeat to city rivals United before the international break.

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Doran broke a 286-minute wait for a Caley Thistle goal with a fine finish in the 16th minute.

It was enough, in the end, to lift Inverness above the Dark Blues into third, a point behind Ayr, and 10 points behind United. Dundee stay 12 behind their city rivals and have lost their game in hand.

Carson showed great determination to win the ball in a strong challenge and then get to the ball before it rolled out for a goal-kick.

The midfielder’s cross from the right left Doran with the tightest of angles to lift a shot past Connor Hazard at the far post, but the Irishman executed it brilliantly.

On the rare occasions the Dens men mustered a threat in response there would always be a block here or a clearance there, most notably later in the first half when Jamie McCart’s defensive header flew over the committed Mark Ridgers.

The ball was heading into the net, but the home side were saved by Carl Tremarco’s clearing header on the line.

Caley Thistle should have doubled the lead after 62 minutes when Doran tore clean through on the keeper only to see Hazard smother it at his feet.

Dundee blew a dream chance late on when substitute Danny Johnson fired wide from close in.

Dens boss James McPake, stung before the international break by a home defeat to leaders United, admitted: “You can’t paper over it. We’re miles behind where we want to be.

“It is in plain sight for everybody to see. I spoke about it last week, but I didn’t see it pre-empting this. We need to get ourselves in order.

“It doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere because if we can’t come to places and find a way to win games of football then it genuinely is irrelevant what’s going on elsewhere.

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“I’m still of the same opinion that we need to get it right. Two weeks ago, it looked like we were and we’ve had two blows. We need to pick the players back up as a staff and, as a squad, we need to dig deep.”

United’s financial resources dwarf all others in the Championship, but Dundee’s budget was healthy enough after dropping down from the Premiership last season. That only adds to pressure on McPake.

He stressed: “I’m not going to stand here and complain about my squad or what I’ve been given, because I couldn’t have been backed any better.

“We’ve got a good set of players, as everyone can see, so as a group of staff and players we need to find a way to get this club in the position it should be.”