An impressive performance from a stretched Caley Thistle side will give John Robertson plenty of encouragement for when a number of his senior players return.
Inverness struck late to secure a 1-1 draw with Ayr United, with Nikolay Todorov cancelling out Honest Men debutant Innes Cameron’s early second-half strike.
The Highlanders were without no fewer than eight senior players for the visit of Ayr, with four teenagers making up the outfield substitutes.
What was possibly one of the youngest Caley Jags sides of all time still produced an enterprising performance, frequently threatening a strong Ayr outfit.
Robertson felt the late breakthrough was no more than his side merited, praising the efforts of his youthful side to secure what he described as one of the best points of his two Caley Jags tenures.
Robertson said: “I think we deserved it. It was a very open game of football, but we are so short of players right now it’s incredible.
“We had to come up with something different and it worked great in the first half, we carved Ayr open numerous times.
“Ayr stepped it up in the second half and got their goal, and looked like they were going to push on.
“Eventually we got the goal we deserved – and considering the personnel we had available that is one of the best points we’ve earned in my time here against a good side.”
Caley Jags’ selection woes were compounded by injuries suffered by Sean Welsh and James Vincent which ruled them out of the game.
Welsh and Kevin McHattie dropped out of the side, being replaced by Danny Devine and Cameron Harper.
Todorov was declared fit after suffering a bruised rib in the opening-day defeat by Dunfermline.
The Bulgarian had netted just 90 seconds into that game and he was inches from doubling his tally for the campaign in the early stages when his header from a pinpoint Harper cross came off the underside of the bar, looking suspiciously like it had crossed the line.
Robertson had no complaints about referee Alan Muir’s decision, adding: “Nobody knows if it’s in or out because it happened that fast.
“Our boys are convinced it’s over, but there’s no way the referee or assistant can possibly call it.
“They say don’t guess and they didn’t so they have got to be praised for that.”
Ayr threatened for the first time on 18 minutes, with Cammy Smith seeing his effort well saved by stand-in skipper Mark Ridgers.
Then Brad Mckay did well to clear Bruce Anderson’s follow-up off the line.
Harper went close for Inverness with a powerful free kick which was well handled by goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo on 26 minutes.
Todorov was denied by the woodwork for a second time on the half-hour mark after being played through by a wonderful ball from MacKay.
But the Bulgarian’s effort clipped the outside of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post. The best chance of the first half fell to the lively Harper moments later.
The full back was clean through after latching on to an outstanding pass by James Keatings, but his composure let him down as he blasted high over the bar.
Harper had to show his defensive qualities five minutes before the break, making a goalline clearance to thwart Jack Baird’s header from a Joe Chalmers corner.
Inverness continued to push before the interval, with Sinisalo denying both Keatings and MacKay from long-range.
It looked like the missed chances would come back to haunt Inverness when Ayr capped a fine start to the second half by taking a 56th-minute lead.
It was an instant impact from Cameron who had only been introduced 60 seconds earlier following his loan move from Kilmarnock the previous day, with the striker netting a cushioned low strike across Ridgers’ goal after being played in by fellow debutant Smith.
Cameron saw another effort held by Ridgers 10 minutes later, with Inverness desperately searching for a leveller in the latter stages of the encounter.
It came three minutes from time when young substitute Ryan Fyffe’s cross landed with Todorov, who struck a crisp low finish into Sinisalo’s bottom right corner from 14 yards.
Ayr could have regained their lead in stoppage time when Smith’s free-kick forced an outstanding fingertip save from Ridgers. However the points were shared.