A bit of a hard start ot the season as Caley Thistle were held to a 1-1 draw by Montrose.
The visitors were expected to be easy pickings but it didn't happen that way in a game that still had a pre-season feel about it. The Caley Thistle goal, right on the stroke of half-time was listed as an own goal for Crighton but Roy McBain can be credited, if not with the goal, at least with an assist. Montrose got the equaliser 3 minutes from time through Jordan Leydon.
Extra time beckoned and with neither side able to score in the additional 30, it went to penalties. ICT scored all 5 of theirs but Montrose had missed one earlier so ICT go through.
ICT have not quite reached the heights of their cup exploits of previous years since being promoted to the SPL. Perhaps now with being back in the 2nd tier of Scottish football the boys in red and blue could find the form in the Scottish Football Leagues hard-fought trophy, the Alba Challenge Cup. When winning the 1st division back in 2004, the club won the same tournament in its stride, beating Airdrieonians 2-0 to add to the growing trophy cabinet. Montrose on the other hand have tasted little success in recent years, although under the leadership of Steven Tweed have quietly been building a youthful team expected to finish in the top half, if not the play-offs, of the 3rd division this season. With the season just starting all the pre-season questions could now be answered. How will the new look team perform? Will they be up to the task? Will Lionel ever score that 50 yard overhead volley? For most it was just about being back at the football on a Saturday afternoon.
The home line-up was almost recognisable, with only 3 new boys starting: Stratford at right-back, Cox in central midfield and Hayes out wide-left. Robert Eagles, Butcher's only other pre-season signing, was deemed not quite fit enough to feature. Nick Ross also started in his first ever competitive game for the club, at the age of 17. Montrose fielded a strong line-up, with Gemmell leading the line and Coutts (a promising youngster recently signed on a 2 year deal from Motherwell) protecting the Gable Endies goal, as well as fans favourite Chris Hegarty marshalling the back four. The answers to those pre-season questions in order were sluggishly, quite possibly and definitely not.
Playing in glorious sunshine, ICT pressed from the start but couldn’t pass their way through a staunch Montrose defence. The link between the strikers and midfield was lacking, and the hard work in ball retention by the players was wasted when it reached the Montrose end. As early as the 12th minute there was a penalty shout for ICT and Richie Foran, with Montrose defender Alan Campbell going in heavily on the striker. However the referee signalled for a corner, much to the disappointment of the ICT support. Montrose also had reason to be unhappy with the officials, Voigt having the perfect opportunity to open the scoring only for the linesman to flag for offside. Andy Barrowman then threatened Coutts in the away goal with an attempted lob dropping short of beating the young keeper, and headed efforts from Foran and Barrowman were too weak to find the net. There was plenty of industry by the young away side in forcing the home side to play long passes up to Foran, and the tactics employed by Steven Tweed seemed to be working. Montrose had couple of sharp breakaways with most ended with the lack of pace available up front. Nearing the end of the first half it looked increasingly like it would finish 0-0. There was more bad news for the home team, Jonny Hayes taking a knock to his ankle and limping off to be replaced by Roy McBain on 38 minutes. However the home team took the lead on the stroke of half-time, a good move out wide on the left ended with Roy McBain cracking the ball towards goal from a tight angle, with the ball being deflected in by Crichton, the Montrose defender.
Half Time 1-0
The team went in at half time on a high and came back out with the aim of scoring the second killer goal. They pressed from the start but the high balls were being dealt with well by the strong Gable Endies. Montrose had their opportunities to break, with Nicoll being booked for diving and John Gemmell heading just wide. When the ICT players forced their way through they just couldn’t find the final killer touch. However they were beginning to show a little more enthusiasm for the occasion. In an attempt to spark life into Inverness attacks the gaffer Butcher brought Rooney into the fray, replacing Barrowman with the 6 foot 2 Irish hitman. However his introduction did not force any immediate reaction from the home side, with no-one managing to threaten the oppositions goalkeeper for the next half hour. Duncan flashed a shot straight into Coutts arms with 7 minutes left to play, and Ross Tokely had a header looping just over the top of the bar: it only looked like a matter of time before one attempt would cross the away sides goal-line. Butcher then took off Foran on the 86th minute mark and replaced him with Hastings, a move engineered towards defending the teams slim lead. However as Inverness pressed, a ball played over the top of a static defence and towards attacking youngster Leydon caused confusion in the defence, with the young midfielder nipping in to flick the ball over the top of Ryan Esson. The home side looked stunned by the goal with 3 minutes remaining, and could do nothing to prevent the tie going to extra-time.
Ninety Minutes 1-1
During the next 30 minutes ICT huffed and puffed, but couldn’t resist playing that final ball to prevent any meaningful attack ending in that decisive goal. Shots from outside of the area fired wide by Mcbain and Duncan did nothing to help the anxiety amongst the home crowd. Rooney went close near the end of the 30 minutes, an acrobatic overhead kick palmed away by the impressive Coutts. Montrose seemed happy to flood the midfield and sit back, soaking up any pressure. It was a gameplan that worked to perfection during the 120 minutes of action, Steven Tweed's men finishing off the only clear opportunity to force the game to penalties. The industry and hard work of many of the Montrose youngsters shone in comparison to the lacklustre and stodgy Caley side that seemed a mile away from full match sharpness.
In the end, it was a set of 5 flawless penalties from the home side that forced the tie in their favour. Rooney, Tokely, the captain Munro, Duncan and Djebi-zadi scoring for Inverness, while Ryan Esson saved well from Hegarty. Davidson, Crighton and Gemmell all dispatched their penalties for the Gable Endies, but in the end it proved fruitless. For many the final whistle and the final penalty was the highlight of the match, although Lionel’s celebratory dance certainly forced some entertainment into a poor showing from the 1st division side. The home gathering left grateful to have snatched victory from their surprisingly tough 3rd division opponents, while the small but vocal away support left with heads held high. Montrose put up an admirable fight but a ring rusty ICT eventually forced their way to the end of the match and into the next round for a home tie against Stranraer.
Match report written by tm4tj