Frustration fizzed throughout a frantic afternoon at the Caledonian Stadium as Caley Thistle and Queen of the South shared four goals.
It was Caley Thistle’s third draw on the spin and makes it just one win in seven home matches and just three victories in 14 games overall.
Yet the top five sides are dropping points weekly, therefore the damage could be worse than the reality of being second-placed, four points behind pacesetters Arbroath.
Inverness head coach Billy Dodds took longer than usual before speaking to the press on Saturday night, but he maybe needed to check and recheck the two visiting goals which sparked anger in the home stands.
Only 500 fans were allowed in on the final weekend of the Scottish Government’s restrictions due to Covid.
The roars of anger vented at referee Willie Collum at the time seemed understandable.
Along with his officials, he seemed to have made the wrong call when Lee Connelly ran on to a deft pass from Ruari Paton to open the scoring for Queens after 39 minutes.
Queens’ opener caused frustration
On reflection, Dodds, who was furious when it happened, still thought it might have been offside afterwards, but didn’t give Collum both barrels.
He said: “For the first one, it was very close. I have looked at it again and again and I have to get the right angle. He might just be offside, but officials can get it wrong.”
His team, no doubt riled by what seemed like a wrong call, responded in the right way in the second half and turned the match on its head thanks to goals from Billy Mckay and Tom Walsh.
Gutsy response from Caley Thistle
With Championship leaders Arbroath coming back to win 2-1 at fellow promotion-seekers Raith Rovers, ICT were on course to remain just two points off the top with a gusty victory of their own.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, second-bottom side Queen of the South, drew level when it seemed ICT had avoided it.
Substitute Ally Roy, who had only just come on, was ideally placed to slot the ball past Mark Ridgers and into the net.
The offside flag on the Kessock Bridge side of the ground was raised, but Collum awarded the goal.
Confusion mixed with fury for the hosts as they felt they’d been robbed for a second time.
However, both camps – having watched it back – were confident enough to say that one was correctly given.
Dodds said: “(For the equaliser), they say it was in the second phase. The ball was headed, David Carson reacted and it fell to the boy (Ally Roy) who was slightly offside and he sticks it in the net. By the new laws, it’s a goal.”
Queens boss Allan Johnston was satisfied with both their goals, despite the frustration felt by the hosts during the game.
He said: “The first goal we scored was from really good play. It was a really good pass between Shea Gordon, Ruari Paton and Lee Connelly and a really good finish.
“I’d imagine Inverness will complain about our second goal, but it takes a nick off their defender. That’s the rule and it was good striker play from us.”
Ridgers’ assist led to Mckay’s goal
What Johnston was less pleased about, however, was ICT’s route back into the contest just after the hour mark.
A long clearance from Ridgers found its way into the box and Mckay, for the second time this season, got on the end of the keeper’s kick to score.
Ten minutes later, Walsh, who spoke last week about his desire to score more, netted his second of the campaign with a clinical finish after Mckay set him up.
Inverness were impressive, but Queens, as Dodds warned beforehand, were always going to battle for everything and they cashed in to score, amid the howls from the stand.
Dodds, to his credit, admits his side need to cut out errors, which in the end denied them maximum points.
So, it’s successive away games now for ICT, with Dunfermline scoring a 1-0 win over Hamilton, but remaining bottom of the pack ahead of their meeting with the Caley Jags this coming Saturday.
After that, Inverness travel to Kilmarnock and they’ll hope to have more than goal difference in their favour by the time the bus arrives at Rugby Park on January 29.
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.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Connelly.