There may be a new name on the door of the manager’s office but Falkirk turned in a display marked by acutely familiar failings as Paul Hartley’s dugout debut fell flat against Inverness.
The dearth of creativity, pace and confidence which characterised their start to the Championship season were all evident as the Bairns claimed an ill-deserved point against the Highlanders.
If two victories during Alex Smith’s brief stint as interim boss had masked the size of the task awaiting Hartley, this was a wake-up call.
By contrast Inverness, belying their lowly berth in the relegation play-off place, passed up a swathe of glorious opportunities. On this evidence, if one of these early underachievers are to start climbing the table, it will be John Robertson’s charges.
“I thought we got away with one,” said an honest Hartley. “In the second half, they were the better side and created far more. I’m pleased with our players’ attitude, application, and a clean sheet. But we need to manage the game better than that, pass better and be more of a threat in the final third.
“Inverness were the ones threatening in the final third. They were wasteful and Robbie [Thomson] has kept us in it. We know we have to improve if we are to climb the table, but it’s important we didn’t get beat.”
Joe McKee stung the palms of Mark Ridgers after just 90 seconds, however that proved a false dawn for Falkirk in a first-half edged by Inverness.
John Baird robbed Aaron Muirhead and fizzed a ferocious drive narrowly wide. Liam Polwarth then forced a sharp low stop from Robbie Thomson.
Joe Chalmers curled a superb free-kick inches past Thomson’s left-hand post on the cusp of half-time as the Highlanders belied their lowly place in the Championship.
Falkirk did threaten through Jordan McGhee, however the on-loan defender’s powerful header was tipped over the bar by his former Hearts teammate Ridgers.
Baird blew his big chance after the break when Connor Bell sent him scampering clear, however the 32-year-old fluffed his lines and lashed his shot high and wide.
Inverness defender Carl Tremarco fired over the bar, Bell rippled the side netting from a tight angle and Baird headed over the bar from point-blank range. When Jake Mulraney rattled the post after latching on to and Iain Vigurs corner, it was painfully clear that it would not be the Caley Jags’ day.
“If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all,” lamented Robertson. “I’m gutted for the players and the fans – because it’s astounding we’re not going back up with three points.”