Caley Thistle pushed on to the last four of the Pat Munro North of Scotland Cup with a 3-1 victory over Forres Mechanics at Caledonian Stadium.
The Highlanders are now just 90 minutes from reaching the final of the competition for a second successive season,with the winners of tonight’s tie between Clachnacuddin and Ross County lying in wait for Caley Jags at home on September 4.
Inverness’ line-up included a sprinkling of experience, most notably midfielder Sean Welsh, who played his first action since suffering a broken metatarsal in March.
He was joined by Shaun Rooney, Kevin McHattie, Nikolay Todorov and Miles Storey in a bid to boost their match sharpness.
Although Forres have yet to register their first point of the Highland League season, Charlie Rowley’s men defended resolutely throughout the first half and succeeded in frustrating Caley Jags, who failed to capitalise on a number of first-half opportunities until Roddy MacGregor gave them the lead on the stroke of half time.
Matheus Machado was first to threaten with a shot from the edge of the box which drifted over on seven minutes, while Cameron Harper’s delivery was nodded wide by Todorov four minutes later.
Forres posed occasional threat, with former Caley Jag Andrew MacRae seeing an acute strike deflected wide.
Caley Jags’ best chances were falling to Bulgarian forward Todorov, who nodded wide from a Storey delivery on 37 minutes before scooping over from a fine position just two minutes later.
Inverness took the lead seconds before the interval, however, as MacGregor latched on to Millar Gamble’s pass before guiding the ball low past Stuart Knight.
The timing of the goal was a cruel blow for Rowley’s men, and their hopes of a fightback suffered another dent just three minutes into the second half.
A measured through ball from Lewis Hyde picked out the run of Storey, who bore down on goal before stroking past Knight to double the advantage.
Storey put the game beyond doubt with his second goal on 73 minutes, with the Englishman hammering a strike past Knight from just inside the box.
The Can-Cans responded with a consolation four minutes later, with MacRae blasting the ball high into the net on the rebound after Cammy Mackay had tipped Allan MacPhee’s curling effort into his path.
MacPhee was thwarted by a fine save by Mackay in the dying stages, but Inverness held on to claim their semi-final berth.