John Robertson, the Inverness manager, hailed his players before maintaining they won’t rest until they’ve gone the entire distance and got their hands on the Scottish Cup.
Robertson took to the Tannadice turf in a state of sheer emotion yesterday after watching Aaron Doran’s dramatic injury-time header seal their place in the semi-final as the Highland cup specialists continue to revel in the competition which they won back in 2015.
Doran’s winner came after Joe Chalmers had given the visitors a 19th-minute lead and Nicky Clark had levelled from the penalty spot in the 68th minute.
Robertson had to endure the agony of seeing substitute Nathan Austin’s header seven minutes from time disallowed for offside, despite TV cameras suggesting otherwise.
“It’s just fantastic and it’s been quite a lucky competition for Inverness,” said Robertson. “That’s my fourth season in charge and my third semi-final as a Championship club. It’s wonderful and it’s great for the fans. It’s been a tough, tough time for us and this is massive. The rewards for getting through are huge. I’ve been saying from the first round we’re in this cup to win it.
“I thought the fans were magnificent but this was one for the players. We out-played them at times and had the chances and got the reward our play deserved. Our offside goal was very tight indeed and it looked as if it wasn’t going to be our day. Then Aaron pops up. Even the United boys were saying we deserved to win.”
It didn’t take long for the match to burst into life and Inverness showed more attacking intent in the first few minutes than they did for almost the entire 90 minutes on Tuesday when they lost 1-0 to United in the Championship.
Jordan White quickly shuttled a pass out to Doran and his low effort brought out a reflex save from Benjamin Siegrsit.
Caley took the lead when Liam Polworth’s clever switch found Chalmers in space wide on the right as the United defence backed off. Chalmers’ first touch killed possession and he produced an exquisite left-foot finish. And they almost went 2-0 ahead in 22 minutes when Doran’s cross was met by White, whose six-yard volley thundered against the bar.
The pattern appeared to be remaining much the same after the break, so United manager Robbie Neilson wasted no time in throwing on Paul McMullan for Cammy Smith in an attempt to enliven the home team.
Still, there seemed no way out for the hard-pressed hosts. Inverness’ next foray forward saw Doran feed Polworth whose effort was blocked by Mark Connolly.
McMullan, though, did bring some spark and his 66th-minute strike brought out Mark Ridgers’ first real save. Straight after that, McMullan was at the centre of controversy when he was touched by White inside the box.
There was uproar among the Caley players who felt McMullan had gone down easily, but that didn’t affect Clark, who kept his cool to serve up an almost identical spot-kick to the one which had sank their opponents earlier in the week.
Inverness thought they’d won it in 83 minutes. Sean Welsh clipped a free-kick into the box for Austin and he planted a header into the far corner. But his celebrations were cut short as a flag was raised for offside. However, justice was done right at the death. Brad McKay’s long throw-in was helped on by White and Doran sneaked in to head past Siegrist.
“I’m very disappointed,” conceded Neilson afterwards. “Never mind the replay, I know it was the last couple of minutes but we were the team creating the chances. It was an opportunity to get to Hampden but we have to take it on the chin.”