The romance of the Scottish Cup continues to burn bright for Caley Thistle after they dug deep to see-off the valiant challenge of Alloa Athletic to book their place in the fifth round on Saturday.
A see-saw cup tie looked destined for a replay until Charlie Trafford settled a pulsating encounter in his side’s favour, much to the relief of manager John Robertson.
He said: “We seemed to have control after starting both halves really well but both times we lost a goal.
“It could have gone either way but we just about did enough to go through on the day.
“Both goalkeepers did well but Mark Ridgers had to make three fantastic saves due to the intensity of the cup tie. There was not a lot between the sides in this game and on another day it could have been Alloa who went through but we’re delighted to win the game.”
Inverness were in control from the first whistle and the only surprise was that it took them eight minutes to open the scoring.
All the pressure had been in and around the Alloa box but the opener, when it came, started from Mark Ridgers’ hands.
The goalkeeper rolled the ball out to Charlie Trafford who passed to Carl Tremarco. The left back found James Keatings on the halfway line and he turned and played a terrific ball out to the right wing where full back Shaun Rooney delivered a fine first-time cross into the box for the onrushing Aaron Doran who took a touch, beat an Alloa defender then fired high past Jamie MacDonald.
It was Caley Thistle’s first goal of the 2019-20 Scottish Cup but without doubt it is an early contender for goal of the tournament.
It was the start watching manager Robertson craved but the lead lasted all of 10 minutes as the home side drew level with their first attempt on goal when Kevin O’Hara wriggled free to head home a corner at the near post.
Suddenly, from an opening where they were in complete control, Inverness found themselves under pressure and Iain Flannigan went close for the home side with a 20-yard low drive which had Ridgers scrambling across goal.
Ridgers then made a fantastic one-handed save to keep out Adam Brown’s low shot after Liam Buchanan had cut the ball back from the byline before the midfielder saw another effort from the edge of the box saved by the Caley Jags goalkeeper.
Inverness were under pressure and Robbie Deas went close as Alloa kept the pressure on but his effort trickled past the post.
Caley Jags regrouped at the break and they should have regained the lead at the start of the second half when Doran’s cushioned header from Miles Storey’s cross found Jordan White inside the six-yard box but the attacker was off balance and his attempt to convert resulted in him scooping the ball over the crossbar.
Play continued to rage from end to end and Ridgers was called into action again to turn a Buchanan effort from Kevin Cawley’s cross past the post.
With the two teams going at it, it was a case of who would blink first and it was the home side which caved in the 61st minute as White made amends for his earlier miss by beating MacDonald with a fine header from Doran’s corner to put his side ahead once more.
Alloa, as they did in the first half, responded strongly to the loss of the goal and their tireless running was rewarded by another equaliser 15 minutes from time and it was O’Hara again, the attacker sweeping home a fine first-time effort after a cross into the box from substitute Lee Connelly was deflected into his path.
Caley Jags would not be denied, however, and there was one last moment of drama as the visitors scored a dramatic winner.
Doran provided the delivery again, from another corner, and when Rooney headed the ball back across goal Trafford was on hand to head home a late winner from close range.