It is far too early to judge either Richie Foran’s managerial potential or the new style of play he is seeking to layer upon the distinctive and sometimes frustrating legacy of the John Hughes era.
One thing is certain, though – there is unlikely to be a dull moment around the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.
This was a far more positive first home managerial bow than the outcome ultimately suggested. Inverness not only dominated possession, as Hughes’ team so often did, they did it with a crisp aplomb and generated many more goalscoring chances, in an often eye-catching and high-tempo performance.
Dundee United, though, held the appearance of a top-flight team in all but name. They couldn’t create too much at all in the final third, but held their own in general play and already bear the positive hallmarks of their own new manager in ex-Raith boss Ray McKinnon.
The Highlanders, though, let a well-earned half-time lead slip within 32 seconds of the second half restart as Stewart Murdoch curled in a fine reply. Earlier, ex-Newport County striker Scott Boden – on his home debut – had claimed his first goal for the club.
United went on to triumph 4-1 on penalties to take the bonus point, leaving Inverness with no room for slip-ups in two remaining group matches away to Dunfermline and home to Arbroath.
“On chances alone we controlled it,” Foran said. “Both teams had wee spells of possession but we had enough chances to win the game. Going into penalties is a flip of a coin, and obviously I would have loved to win it, but I’m proud of the guys. I see lots of positives.
“We need to win the next two games then we’re through.”
With veteran goalkeeper Ryan Esson failing to recover from a groin injury, young Cammy Mackay earned a first competitive start for the hosts.
The minor emergency had Wales international Owain Fon Williams jetting back two days early from extended leave after Euro 2016 action.
McKinnon fielded five of his summer signings and, while United settled well enough in the opening ten minutes, Inverness were soon dictating with some positive, fast-paced attacking play.
United threatened rarely, although newcomer Lewis Toshney smacked a header against the bar before the offside flag was raised.
The 35th minute breakthrough – with Boden striking on his home debut – was deserved. A long Carl Tremarco throw from the left had Gary Warren flicking the ball on with his head. There, a few yards out, the alert Boden was perfectly placed to nod across the line.
But the hosts were caught cold 32 seconds after the restart. United’s rapid attack ended with Simon Murray feeding the ball across to Murdoch at the edge of the box. The summer signing from Ross County executed a lovely, curled first-time finish.
However, the Highlanders resumed overall control and from Polworth’s measured pass, Boden sliced badly wide from inside the right of the box. Moments later, again from Polworth’s supply, Boden’s acrobatic volley was clutched by United’s Cammy Bell.
Bell pulled off two further saves, from a Tansey and a Polworth drive, to force the penalty shoot-out.
Tope Obadeyi, Coll Donaldson, Murdoch and Murray all netted for United, while Tremarco tucked his kick away for the hosts, but Greg Tansey and Ross Draper’s efforts were both saved by keeper Bell.
McKinnon was more than satisfied with the Championship side’s efforts.
He said: “Inverness are a right good side, so I was happy with the performance. Hopefully we can keep building and gelling. The boys did really well today. It was a deserved draw.”