It’s not often a team that hits the woodwork several times and scores two goals aren’t head-and-shoulders above their opponents, but St Mirren – 2-1 victors at a sun-kissed SMISA Stadium – were given an almighty battle by Caley, who look a reinvigorated, attractive team under stand-in manager Neil McCann.
The Championship play-off hopefuls briefly led this fourth-round tie thanks to a 48th-minute goal from Nikolay Todorov. St Mirren replied instantly via Kristian Dennis before Marcus Fraser bundled in the winner with seconds to spare.
This was a quite brilliant cup tie. Caley have timed their run perfectly in the Championship and went into this match unbeaten across all competitions in eight games. They played like an ebullient group. St Mirren have had a fine season themselves, so close to the Premiership's top six and Betfred Cup semi-finalists. In the end, a little bit of nous probably won it.
"Football does that to you,” lamented McCann. “We maybe just switched off ever so slightly. It's a sore one, but I'm so proud of them and I think everybody in Inverness who watched will be proud of their side. I don't think we deserved to lose the game."
St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin knew his men had been in a battle. “We definitely left it late, no doubt about that,” he said. “We hit the woodwork a couple of times as well. I could list all the things that we did wrong but I’d rather congratulate Inverness on their performance. They were excellent from start to finish. Neil can be extremely proud of their efforts.”
How it all unfolded
This game crackled right from the off. Inverness shone in their luminous pink away kit. Scott Allan, on loan from Hibs, pulled most of the strings. Daniel Mackay and Miles Storey were pests on the flanks. Allan deserves special mention for his first 90 minutes since last February, a pleasing sight considering his battle with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
In the first period, Allan came closest to scoring, but his shot smacked the post. The Buddies weren’t without their own threat, though, with Dennis’ effort deflected on to the bar. An entertaining half ended goalless.
We did not, however, have to wait long for the breakthrough. It came on 48 minutes. Allan delivered a wicked corner and Todorov, unmarked, lashed it into the net. St Mirren’s players vociferously claimed that their defenders had been impeded in the box, but the officials were unmoved.
The Buddies responded strongly, though. Just two minutes later, Dennis was found unmarked and he made no mistake with a clinical finish.
The game was now fizzing, uncorked by two strikes. Durmus hit the bar and Dennis rattled the rebound off the post. At the other end, Allan fired inches wide. The woodwork, again, got involved as Durmus’ header looped on to it.
Just as a further 30 minutes looked a nap, St Mirren got the winner. Of course, the post played a part. Jon Obika’s shot hit the inside of the it, Brandon Mason drilled the ball back across the goal and Fraser slid in to bag the winner. The Saints march on to the quarter-finals.