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Caley Thistle hard done by as Queen of the South depart with point in Championship

Billy Mckay sweeps home Caley Thistle's equaliser.
Billy Mckay sweeps home Caley Thistle's equaliser.

Two controversial Queen of the South goals were major talking points as Caley Thistle were held 2-2 – as ICT slipped four points behind Championship leaders Arbroath.

A hotly-disputed Lee Connelly goal, his third against ICT this season, looked offside in the latter stages of the first half, although his finish was as cool as the weather to shoot Queens ahead.

ICT, twice 2-1 winners over the Doonhamers this term, fought back through goals from Billy Mckay and Tom Walsh to turn the match around.

However, a Rae goal which the linesman flagged for offside was overturned by whistler Willie Collum and Queens marched away with a point.

This was enough to return the Caley Jags into second position just in front of Kilmarnock on goal difference.

Killie nudged into second spot after their Friday night 1-1 against Partick Thistle, so the chance was there for the hosts to target top spot.

In the other game which mattered in the higher half of the table today, Arbroath won 2-1 at Raith Rovers to widen their gap at the summit.

For Queens, the result keeps them just ahead of basement side Dunfermline on goal difference. The Pars defeated Hamilton 1-0 at East End Park.

This match was played in front of almost 500 season ticket holders before the Covid restrictions on crowd capacities are lifted on Monday.

Inverness midfielder Roddy McGregor, right, and Queen of the South’s Ben Liddle.

Neither side kicked off in the best of form, with the Caley Jags winning just three of their last 14 games, with eight draws in that time keeping them in the title chase. Just won home victory in six league games was also a concern.

At the opposite end of the table, two victories in 15, allied with seven defeats, locked the Dumfries team in trouble in ninth position.

Inverness midfield ace Scott Allardice went off injured in the 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers last week, replaced by returning skipper Sean Welsh, who last featured in the Scottish Cup replay defeat last month at Morton.

Left-back Robbie Deas, subjected to a £150k bid from St Johnstone which was rejected last week,

Deas was in the line-up though here as skipper Sean Welsh and midfielders Reece McAlear and Roddy MacGregor were handed starts too. Wallace Duffy dropped to the bench, with Cameron Harper and Scott Allardice sidelined altogether.

Queens dropped to second bottom last week after losing 2-0 to Killie in Derek McInnes’ debut in charge of the Ayrshire side.

Two personnel changes during the week saw midfielder Shea Gordon join on loan until the end of the season from Partick Thistle and forward Innes Cameron recalled from his loan spell by Killie.

Gordon made his debut for the Dumfries side, with captain and coach Willie Gibson and Ben Liddle handed starts by boss Allan Johnston.

Caley Thistle winger Tom Walsh, left, and Queen of the South’s Max Johnston.

Drives at either end tested opponents

The first chance of note fell to Queens when Connelly had a low drive deflected wide for a corner.

Inverness responded and a fierce shot from MacGregor, stemming from a McAlear corner, was blocked by bodies and cleared to safety.

Home keeper Mark Ridgers had to race out of goal on 21 minutes as Ruari Paton was put through by Gordon, with the ICT number one swiping the ball clear with his feet to avert the danger.

This latest moment sparked another response from ICT, with Walsh and Mckay each testing goalkeeper Joshua Rae without success.

It remained nip and tuck and Deas found himself in an advanced position in the next attack, but his drive only took the ball into the side-netting just before Billy Mckay’s effort also flew wide.

Hotly-disputed goal is blow for ICT

The first moment of controversy arrived seven minutes before the break when Connelly, who looked coffside latched on to a pass from Paton, rounded Ridgers and slotted the ball into the net.

It sparked fury in the home ranks, but delight for the grateful visitors.

Caley Thistle sought a swift reply in the second half and Mckay’s boot almost met a cross swept into the box by MacGregor.

On 53 minutes, a timely tackle from defender Danny Devine prevented Connelly from making it 2-0, which kept the contest alive.

McAlear, who netted the leveller against Raith a week ago, then drew a decent save from Rae with a deflected shot from the edge of the area.

It soon was all square though as Mckay pounced in the box to slam it past Rae for his 12th goal of the season after he got on to a long ball from Ridgers. An assist from the keeper worked a treat.

Welsh and Shane Sutherland went close soon after this strike as ICT pressed for the winner.

Yet, on 73 minutes, they did get their noses in front when Mckay played it on for Walsh, who made no mistake with a deadly finish.

It looked as if ICT were back on course for a gutsy comeback victory.

However, with his first touch after replacing Paton, striker Roy poked the ball into the net and ran away to celebrate. The flag was raised for offside it seemed the goal was ruled out.

But referee Willie Collum, after discussion with his far-side colleague, blew the whistle and the goal stood amid sheer confusion.

It later was confirmed the ball came off Carson, which under current laws meant the Queens forward was then onside for his finish.

Mckay almost sealed the victory for ICT, but a vital save from Rae kept the scores level.

ICT hit the road to Dunfermline next weekend for their rearranged league game, followed seven days later by a trip to Killie.

HOW THEY LINED UP

CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1): Ridgers 7, Welsh 6, Deas 6, Devine 6, Carson 6, Mckay 7, Sutherland 7, MacGregor 6 (Duku 64), Walsh 6, Broadfoot 6, McAlear 6. Subs not used: Mackay (GK), Duffy, Jamieson, Hyde, Nicolson.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH (3-4-1-2): Rae 6, Cooper 6, Paton 7 (Roy 74), Connelly 7, Liddle 6, McGrory 6, East 6, Nditi 6, Johnston 6, Gordon 7 (Debayo 70), Gibson 6 (Fitzpatrick 74). Subs not used: Cowie (GK), Joseph, McKechnie, Soares Junior.

REFEREE: Willie Collum.

ATTENDANCE: 479.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Connelly.

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