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Ross Draper unsurprised to see Caley Thistle repeat nine-man penalty shootout heroics

Ross Draper tucks away the winning ICT penalty against Hearts in the Scottish League Cup semis in 2014.
Ross Draper tucks away the winning ICT penalty against Hearts in the Scottish League Cup semis in 2014.

Ross Draper offered an insight into how to win against all odds as his former club Caley Thistle did just that to reach this week’s Premiership play-off final against St Johnstone.

Friday’s semi-final second leg at Arbroath went the distance after a 0-0 aggregate draw, despite ICT having Danny Devine sent off, Shane Sutherland stretchered off and Wallace Duffy also red carded in extra-time.

Billy Dodds’ stars held on, made it to 120 minutes then won the shoot-out 5-3, thanks to a Mark Ridgers save and Kirk Broadfoot’s winner.

That triumph takes them into a two-legged final against St Johnstone at home on Friday then away on Monday.

It was a similar situation to the League Cup semi-final in 2014 as the Inverness team Draper played in somehow, after two red cards, survived extra-time.

Cove Rangers midfielder Draper, who was on loan at Elgin City this season, netted the decisive penalty that day to take ICT into the League Cup final, which they lost on penalties against Aberdeen.

Similarities uncanny between semis

And memories came flooding back as he watched the drama unfold live on BBC Scotland on Friday.

He said: “I was watching the game and it had that déjà vu feel about it where it was very much like the Hearts semi-final we got through in 2014.

“It was quite uncanny in terms of how similar those matches played out in terms of losing two men and also I didn’t feel either incident was a sending off.

“It seemed like everything was going against them, like in our game. On top of the red cards, Shane Sutherland gets injured and Kirk Broadfoot needed to go off for treatment.

“Our game and last week’s were both semi-finals leading up to bigger matches and the links were really similar.”

Training work comes to the fore

And he explained the work teams do in training helps players switch their mindsets when they go one, two or even three men down within a match.

He said: “It’s a backs-against-the wall situation. You do drills in training where you have overloads of 10 v eight, or your back four is working on a six v four set-up.

Inverness celebrate their win at Arbroath.

“Players do these kinds of drills in training, so you just have to switch it into game mode. When you have something to hang on to, it becomes a little easier. Then you have to try and find a set-piece to try and nick a goal.

“As soon as Danny’s red card happened, you’re thinking about whether you can make it to penalties. You dig deep and pray for a little bit of luck.”

ICT handled Arbroath tie so well

Draper, 33, felt comfortable that the 10 or nine men of ICT would handle Arbroath due to the way they were coping with their hosts.

He said: “In our game against Hearts, we rode our luck a little bit, but on Friday, I think Caley Thistle managed the game really well.

“Arbroath didn’t cause them any problems whatsoever. You can get a buzz when it gets to penalties that it might just be your day.”

Delighted Caley Jags head coach Billy Dodds.

Nothing to lose when heat is on

Kirk Broadfoot was the match-winner from the spot last Friday, just as Draper was eight years ago and the midfielder was impressed by his finish beyond goalkeeper Derek Gaston.

He added: “I watched Kirk’s interview and he spoke about my penalty. I wouldn’t have Kirk down as a natural penalty taker, very much like myself.

“He said he just tried to hit the target, which again was similar to mine. You just try to give yourself a chance.

“When everything goes against you, the pressure comes off you a bit. After those refereeing decisions, they had nothing to lose. Nothing was expected of them.

“Kirk held his nerve very well. All the (Inverness) penalties were well-hit.”

Boss Dodds taping team together

And Draper doesn’t rule out his former club seeing off the Saints, despite their selection troubles.

He said: “I don’t look at it and think Inverness don’t have a chance, of course they have a chance.

“They will be up against it because they will be without Shane Sutherland and Wallace Duffy. All going well, Danny Devine will win his appeal on Wednesday and be free to play.

“I know Danny well and I was in disbelief about the red card. I didn’t feel it was even a foul and it is no surprise they’re appealing it.

“Billy Dodds will be sellotaping a team together – but if they can get a good result on Friday, then it’s anyone’s game.

“Inverness have been in great form and will be full of confidence. It would be great to see Inverness and Ross County in next season’s Premiership.

“I give Inverness a chance. It doesn’t need to be won in the first 10-15 minutes. You have 180 minutes or more to win this final. With a few players out, someone else can step up and be a hero.”

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