It was anything but pretty – but Caley Thistle dug deep to progress to the last four of the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup.
Following a drab 90-minutes against League 1 outfit Clyde, supporters of both sides would have taken great relief in the fact the match went straight to penalties, bypassing another 30 minutes of extra time on a bitterly cold Highland afternoon.
Inverness were clinical in the shootout, with Nikolay Todorov, Carl Tremarco, Coll Donaldson and James Keatings all scoring. Goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was the hero, with his saves from the Bully Wee’s Tony Wallace and Chris McStay making sure of a semi-final berth.
Despite Inverness’s progression, it was far from the convincing display they were looking for to atone for their poor recent form which has seen them win just one of their last five Championship matches.
However, they will now be hoping to take the winning feeling into a crucial home match against Dundee on Saturday.
Inverness’s dugout presence was hampered by a sickness bug which kept manager John Robertson and assistant Scott Kellacher at home, with both failing to recover in time for the visit of the Bully Wee.
That meant coaches Barry Wilson and Ryan Esson were joined in the technical area by academy director and former Caley Jags boss Charlie Christie, who went into the game buoyed by news of his son Ryan opening his international goalscoring account for Scotland against Cyprus.
Wilson said: “A win is a win.
“We started off on Monday looking to get into the semi-final of the Challenge Cup and we have got there.
“It has been a hard week.
“We would have liked to have given the manager a comfier afternoon in his bed.
“We missed our chances in the first half but in the second half we looked nervy and like a team short in confidence. It’s frustrating but it’s a cup competition. If you do go on and lift the trophy, nobody remembers that you scraped past Clyde on penalties.”
Inverness’s starting XI was also much-changed from the side which went down 3-0 against Arbroath the previous weekend. Aaron Doran, James Vincent, Mitch Curry and Jordan White were drafted in, at the expense of Nikolay Todorov, Tom Walsh, James Keatings and David Carson.
It was a bright start by the home side, with forward White in the thick of the early action.
After sending a free-kick narrowly over, White went even closer on 17 minutes when his header from a Miles Storey delivery flashed inches over.
Caley Jags continued to look the more threatening team, with Curry twice firing efforts off target after finding decent shooting positions inside the penalty box.
Clyde had offered little danger in the opening stages but were presented an opening on 34 minutes when Jamie McCart’s misplaced pass was intercepted by Ross Lyon.
He played a pass through to Darren Smith but Mark Ridgers was equal to his low driven effort.
Doran then had two opportunities to break the deadlock before the interval.
However, the Irishman saw his first effort on goal parried by David Mitchell before floating a second effort over the bar after latching on to a loose header by Scott Rumsby.
That drew an uninspiring first half to a close – and it did not get much better after the break.
Although Charlie Trafford struck an effort over the crossbar following a corner shortly after half-time, it was Clyde who began to pose the greater threat as the half wore on, with Tony Wallace seeing an effort held by Ridgers, before sending another strike marginally wide.
Ridgers was forced to make a telling contribution even before the shoot-out, when he dived spectacularly to tip McStay’s goal-bound effort from the edge of the box wide.
Inverness could not find a way through in a late rally, with Ridgers taking his momentum into the shootout to edge Caley Thistle through a tense encounter.