Stirling Albion rightly took all the plaudits in this fourth round tie as Scottish Cup champions Inverness Caledonian Thistle were made to look more like chumps as they struggled to a scoreless draw against the League Two part timers.
The weather relented sufficiently for this game to go ahead as Inverness began the defence of their trophy in Stirling. The last time the clubs met here in the cup Inverness trounced the Bino's 6-1. There would be no such outcome this time as the home side had done their homework and negated anything the visitors had to offer, which in truth was very little.
An encouraging away support were on hand to witness our opening defence and many left disappointed at our inability to create anything resembling a chance, although everyone was grateful for the opportunity to rectify this in the replay on Tuesday 19th of January.
New signing Alex Fisher started on the bench along with Andrea Mutombo and perennial bench warmer Jordan Roberts. Danny Williams filled the vacant left back position in Carl Tremarco's enforced absence.
Stirling made three changes from the side that flopped against East Stirling the previous week. Out went Ross McGeachie, David Verlaque and Mark Lamont, and in came Ross Smith, Craig Comrie and Phil Johnston. Craig Beattie was on the bench.
A relatvely lively opening from the visitors saw little happening but Danny Williams had a shot well saved by Chris Smith in the eighth minute after linking neatly with Liam Polworth.
It would go on to be a dreadful first half with Inverness allowing their opponents to get bodies behind the ball with their painstakingly slow build up play which made for little entertainment for the crowd.
The first half came and went without much ado as the fans waited for something to happen.
Half Time 0-0
Yogi had seen enough of the ineffective and out of position Nat Wedderburn and pulled him off at the break, replacing him with Alex Fisher in the hope that this would inject a bit more urgency about events.
Miles Storey, David Raven and Danny Devine all came close in a more up tempo second half, but we were still too intent on boring Stirling Albion into submission, but the Bino's were having none of it and were probing well on the break.
Darren Smith fired over the bar five minutes after the interval and that was a warning shot for Inverness. But our pedantic style was inviting a shock and Owain Fon Williams denied Willie Robertson after the hour.
Craig Beattie entered the fray as the game trudged towards a climax and you could smell the banana skin being peeled.
We almost stood on it and Gary Warren prevented the slip when he blocked a Steven Doris effort which looked as if it might have gone in.
Greg Tansey fired one just wide but we could not put ourselves into the hat on our own and Stirling Albion deservedly joined us.
Full Time 0-0
This was not about what we didn't do, it was all about what Stirling Albion did and they thoroughly deserved another crack at us. We should not be taking this lightly and can consider ourselves fortunate to get another chance to right the many wrongs.
The MotM were all wearing Bino's white and red and they collect that accolade as a team. Congratulations to Stirling Albion.
For Inverness, it's time to take stock and ask ourselves if we really did enough against a team 32 places below us in the Scottish Football tier system. I think we all know the answer.
Alternative Maryhill was at the game and made these observations:-
Disappointing performance. I know that our default strategy is to sit deep and build from the back, but I thought that yesterday would be an opportunity, against part-time players from a league below, to press higher up the park and try to overwhelm them early in the game. For the first ten minutes it looked like we were going to do that, with Storey and Williams both looking particularly lively, and Stirling's left back looking vulnerable. However, we then reverted to the deep-lying, low-tempo approach and created next to nothing for the rest of the half. Stirling were quick and direct down the right hand side, and looked threatening on a couple of occasions, although their moves tended to fall apart when they got to the edge of our box. We had a few more chances and close shaves in the second half, but rarely forced the Stirling keeper into saves. Fisher doesn't seem to have much pace, although he may need time to get up to the pace of competitive games, but he did add a bit of presence up front, and it may be that, if they play together, Storey starts to play a more roaming role, dropping deeper to collect the ball and taking it out wide when required - he was doing that anyway yesterday, but there was rarely any support for him until Fisher arrived.
I don't have too many fears for the replay, but we will need much more of a cutting edge and more ability to press teams if we are going to get anywhere near where we did last season. Players of the calibre and directness of Watkins and Shinnie were sorely missed yesterday.
Stirling Albion: 0
C Smith, Mazel, McKinlay (McGeachie 12), Forsyth, R Smith, Robertson, Johnston (Lamont 62), Comrie (Beattie 79), Doris, D Smith, Dickson.
Subs (not used): Verlaque, Cunningham, Kouider-Aissa, Binnie (GK).
Inverness CT: 0
O F Williams, Raven, Warren, Devine, Wedderburn (Fisher 46), Tansey, D Williams, Polworth, Draper, Vigurs (Mbuyi-Mutombo 79), Storey.
Subs (not used): Roberts, Brown, Sutherland, MacRae, Esson (GK).
Referee: Mat Northcroft