JOHN HUGHES breathed a sigh of relief that Scottish Cup holders Inverness Caley are still in the tournament after almost falling at the first hurdle at Forthbank.
Stirling might be three leagues below their Highland League opponents but they were the team who emerged with the accolades to earn a richly deserved replay a week on Tuesday.
While the home fans celebrated, Inverness manager John Hughes was not quite so ebullient.
He said: “There was a good shape about Stirling and in the second half possibly had the better of the half chances.
“We kept a clean sheet but all credit to Stirling.
“The only thing we take from the game is that we are still in the cup.
“We played some nice stuff nut never had a cutting edge.
“The effort and commitment was there. But the quality wasn’t.”
The Caley supporters turned up in force hoping to see a few goals from their team although Stirling had their own ideas of trying to ensure that did not happen.
Their loyalty was almost rewarded in the ninth minute when Danny Williams played a neat one two with Liam Polwortj just eight yards from goal but Stirling keeper Chris Smith raced out to make a brilliant save.
Stirling’s cause was not helped when defender Kevin McKinlay was stretchered off with Ross Mc|Geachie coming on to replace him.
The home side might have been up against it but they clearly had no contention of being mere cannon fodder for their opponents.
Stirling showed their own threat when Steven Doris hooked a long high ball into the penalty area for fellow striker Darren Smith but Inverness goalkeeper Fon-Williams came out smartly to smother the potential threat.
It was proving a frustrating afternoon for the Highlanders with Stirling’s confidence growing all the time.
Caley made their first change at the interval, Torquay signiing Alex Fisher replacing Nat Wedderburn.
But it was Stirling who almost got their noses in front when striker Darren Smith fired over after being set up by skipper Phil Johnston before a Danny Devine header was saved by Smith.
Given the scoreline it was all getting very tense and the situation almost got worse as Smith let fly with a low shot from the edge of the box which Fon-Williams pushed away.
Stirling manager Stuart McLaren said: “I am immensely proud of the boys. From the time we got the tie we were quite aware of how Inverness play, John Hughes is quite consistent in the style of his teams and I admire him for that.
“It gave us a good starting point to play how they did I give every ounce of credit to the players.”