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Inverness CT 2 St Mirren 2: Point gained but Paisley side may yet rue ones that got away

IF a touch of gloom had settled on the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium since Inverness Caledonian Thistle's cup-final heartache, yesterday's match would surely have refreshed perspectives.

Greg Tansey celebrates putting Inverness 2-1 up. Photograph: SNS
Greg Tansey celebrates putting Inverness 2-1 up. Photograph: SNS

The scent of panicked perspiration hanging in the air around St Mirren was hovering over Caley Thistle five years ago.

Relegation back then was the first real scar inflicted on a club not yet 20 years old. The League Cup final defeat to Aberdeen, surrounded by some erratic form, was the second.

However, John Hughes' team can be commended for retaining top-six status for another year even if European football may be a bridge too far.

For the Paisley, side a point was a positive in some respects but they may yet rue not taking more, especially as they had a fine chance to snatch a win against their by then 10-man hosts.

Some critical shouts were aimed at Danny Lennon before the equaliser - the visitors opened the scoring but then fell 2-1 behind - but nothing will disturb the St Mirren manager's focus.

"With all due respect, sometimes fans don't really see what you're trying to achieve until once I maybe explain it a little bit," Lennon said. "But you're not going to please everyone. You do what you feel is right. The fans are entitled to their opinions. I understand their frustrations. I feel every frustration they are feeling at this moment in time, because we know the quality in that dressing room. My only focus is to make sure we are prepared for our next game, against Motherwell next week."

The hosts were missing the dig and influence of captain Richie Foran due to a knee injury and the creative flair of Aaron Doran as a result of a hamstring problem.

Hughes instead turned to youth in the shape of Liam Polworth and, earning his first competitive start, Ryan Christie, son of club legend Charlie Christie. It was to be a move rewarded by calm, efficient contributions from both.

Paul McGowan and goalkeeper Marian Kello were St Mirren's notable absentees. Lennon's men had to go for it and netted with the first serious attack of the match. Kenny McLean swung in a long, diagonal free-kick from deep left and found Jason Naismith in space to the right of the box.

The defender controlled the ball elegantly and struck a low shot inside Dean Brill's far post, with David Raven's flailing leg unable to divert the finish.

Roused to action, the hosts almost hit back when Josh Meekings met Polworth's free-kick, only for St Mirren goalkeeper Christopher Dilo to touch his header over the bar.

Home momentum kept building with some quick passing movement culminating in the equaliser after 17 minutes. Graeme Shinnie sent over an excellent corner from the right and the towering figure of Ross Draper outleapt Darren McGregor to slam in a header at the back post.

St Mirren were creaking and a Greg Tansey head-flick sent striker Billy McKay clean away soon after. However, the ball took a wicked bobble and his scuffed attempt spun well off-target.

St Mirren succumbed again after 34 minutes. Tansey was the executor, with a cool finish in front of a crowded goal-line after McKay cleverly cushioned a Polworth cross with his head.

The visitors' fighting qualities didn't wane in the second half and, through perseverance, they got back on level terms

Just after the hour, McLean's corner sparked a bit of pinball in the home box. The hosts were unable to clear, and Sean Kelly nodded past Brill from close range.

Josh Meekings added to home concerns when he was shown a straight red card after 67 minutes for sending St Mirren substitute Josh Magennis tumbling as he headed for the penalty box.

St Mirren should have snatched a winner after a great run and cross from Gary Teale set up McLean, only for Raven to clear on the line.

Hughes felt Meekings' sending-off was unjust. "I don't think it was a red card," he said. "I felt Shinnie was probably in line with him when the foul was committed. I asked for an explanation from the fourth official and couldn't really get a convincing one."

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