FOOTBALL'S carbon footprint is the only loser so far in this William Hill Scottish Cup tie.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle fans spent about six hours journeying most of the length and breadth of the country yesterday. Now, the most hardened of the Stranraer support will have to make the long trip north for the replay a week on Tuesday.
John Hughes' League Cup finalists were held by an enterprising and hard-working display from the part-time home side, who briefly dared to dream after Jamie Longworth fired them into a 2-1 lead with less than 20 minutes remaining. However, Billy McKay popped up out of nowhere to head home the equaliser two minutes later.
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Hughes said: "We showed character to dig deep and we're still in there. They deserve their replay, that's for sure. We gave them two goals, but they were clinical in their finishing. We'll need to be at our best to make sure we make the next round."
The opening goal came with five minutes remaining of what had been a poor first half.
Aaron Doran was just a little too quick for the Stranraer defence all afternoon and after conjuring a pocket of space inside on the left inside the penalty box, he curled the ball beyond David Mitchell, who could but stare as it nestled in the bottom corner.
On the stroke of half-time, however, Stranraer's Mark Docherty raced the length of the pitch to receive the ball on the overlap.
He curled a high ball to the far post, where Martin Grehan was needlessly pushed by Graeme Shinnie. Grehan, who had had a tough task leading the line for the hosts, thumped home the penalty. "I thought it was a shove," admitted Hughes.
The Inverness manager threw on Richie Foran just before the hour, the captain making his first appearance since December after recovering from a shoulder injury.
He has mostly played in the centre of the park this season, but was restored here to the attack, alongside McKay. Foran's arrival almost paid dividends when lightning break saw Doran feed him on the right. Foran played the ball across the six-yard box where McKay was lurking, but it was cleared.
Stranraer got the break all their hard work deserved midway through the half when Longworth pounced on a loose header on the halfway line.
He flicked the ball behind Josh Meekings, who misjudged a long hoof out of defence, and suddenly he was in. Not the paciest, the striker was being caught up quickly; he knew he had to take it early.
With a swish of his right boot, just outside the area, he sent the ball past the onrushing Dean Brill for his 20th goal of the season.
Inverness were shellshocked but they regrouped quickly. McKay fired a warning shot from a corner before he nodded in from a Foran cutback. Both teams brought on fresh legs as they pushed for a winner but the defences held strong.
"It's going to be tough," Stranraer manager Stephen Aitken said of the replay. "Midweek games are difficult for part-time clubs and the boys will need to get two days off work.
"But it is what it is. I tried to throw as many men forward as possible to try to win it at the end, but if you'd said before the game that we would get a draw I would have been delighted."