Caley Thistle were held to a 1-1 draw by a stubborn Arbroath at Gayfield.
A scratchy and scrappy first half was ended by Jack Hamilton putting the hosts in front but the lead was brief, with Shane Sutherland levelling matters at the start of the second half.
It is the second time in a week Caley Thistle have been held on the road and it does little to improve their league position, keeping them in seventh ahead of a trip to Dens Park to face Dundee on Saturday.
A failure to create clear chances when they were on top in the game again came back to haunt the Caley Jags, who are still playing catch-up on the top four.
John Robertson made four changes from last week’s 2-2 draw with Morton, with both of his starting centre-halves missing. Danny Devine and Robbie Deas were absent from the squad, while Aaron Doran and Scott Allardice dropped to the bench.
Brad McKay and Nikolay Todorov were drafted into the centre of the defence, while Miles Storey and James Keatings replenished the forward areas.
In desperate need of points and momentum to resurrect a flagging play-off push, Caley Thistle would not have chosen a wind-battered Arbroath as the ideal place to start.
Their last trip here in November 2019 resulted in a 3-0 chasing by the Gable Endies, with Arbroath at the time still riding the crest of their promotion to the Championship. This meeting had both sides too close to the bottom of the division for comfort.
Keatings’ inclusion in behind Shane Sutherland had looked to give Inverness greater drive and guile in the final third, however his evening lasted just 20 minutes as he pulled up in the centre circle. Allardice made a swift return to the line-up in his place, with James Vincent moving further forward.
John Robertson had bemoaned his side’s lack of intensity in letting their lead slip in Greenock seven days ago and in brief first-half spurts they rectified that. However, the conditions were a secondary opponent in the opening 45, with Arbroath going back-to-front with regularity, putting the Caley Jags under pressure, and delivered set-pieces into the six-yard box in an effort to pin Mark Ridgers to his line.
Anything they could snatch against the wind would be an added bonus and they had opportunities to do so. Storey, checking back on to his right foot, landed the ball in the centre of the goal but Daniel MacKay’s connection was not crisp enough to worry Derek Gaston.
30' | 0-0
Chance! Miles Storey's cross finds Daniel MacKay in the box but his effort is just wide!
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) February 3, 2021
Storey’s pace was an obvious threat for the visitors and he clearly relished the chance to stretch his legs against part-time defenders. Had his touch been better then he could have galloped in on goal, rather than gifting possession to Ricky Little.
Arbroath occupied good areas, with an ambitious 30-yard effort from Dale Hilson bobbling in front of Ridgers before he collected.
Caley Thistle appeared to have weathered the storm until the final minute of the half, when Jack Hamilton held off the attentions of Cameron Harper to beat Ridgers.
Harper made amends with a key role in the equaliser, which took just two minutes of the second half to arrive. The left-back was afforded space on the flank and crossed superbly, who powered a header past Gaston.
Robertson switched his front line around and it brought immediate joy. MacKay was now on the left able to roam infield, Sutherland tucked in narrow off the right and Storey now had the chance to use his speed in behind.
With the wind behind them, this was the chance to punish the home side. Sutherland was becoming an increasing threat with the positions he was taking and had he got a clean contact on an in-swinging free-kick from Harper, he could have had his second of the evening.
But while the conditions and momentum was in Caley Thistle’s favour, Gaston was not overly worked. Arbroath ought to have crept back in front with 15 minutes to go, with Michael McKenna’s cross on the money for Hamilton but he chested the ball, falling down, over the bar from close range.
Harper’s potshot from distance was comfortably claimed by Gaston and it was Arbroath who finished the game stronger, with substitute Kris Doolan seeing a shot come back off the post.
Inverness huffed and puffed in trying conditions but were left to rue not breaching the hosts’ rearguard further.