Last Gasp Agony
Inverness now require a miracle of biblical proportions to make the play-off after a 95th minute goal snatched our destiny from our own hands in a pulsating match against the Pars.
It was always going to be a big ask to win our remaining eight games, but we looked to be getting down to the last two until the stoppage time equaliser ruined the day. Nicky Clark did the dastardly deed with almost the last touch of the ball heading home a set piece to spoil our weekend. The Pars had gone ahead after some slack play at the back, Andy Ryan scoring. However, Joe Chalmers found the bottom corner of the goal with a super free kick and when Nathan Austin surged forward to thunder the ball into the net it was looking good until the last few seconds when a draw was snatched from the jaws of victory.
Influential playmaker and the voters & players player of the year Iain Vigurs was suspended and in came Charlie Trafford to the midfield. Gary Warren missed out through injury and Collin Seedorf slotted in at right back with Brad Mckay moving alongside Coll Donaldson at the heart of the defence. Carl Tremarco replaces Riccardo Calder in a straight swap at left back.
Dunfermline had on form Fraser Aird keeping Jo Cardle on the bench and former Inverness Cup hero James Vincent starting. Nat Wedderburn was also on the bench.
A big travelling support boosted the crowd to near three and a half thousand on a bright Saturday afternoon, no chance of this game being called off.
The Pars showed they were going to be difficult to beat in the early exchanges as they moved the ball around swiftly but it was Aaron Doran that got the first shot away, saved comfortably by Lee Robinson in the Pars goal. George Oakley tried his luck with a header that missed the target.
Dunfermline made the breakthrough after some slack defending on the right side of our defence. Andy Ryan benefitting and beating Ridgers to open the scoring. Kallum Hegginbotham felt the need to hammer the ball into the North Stand in a peculiar sort of celebration and was promptly booked.
Brad Mckay had a shot saved by Robinson as we looked to get back on level terms and we did just that a couple of minutes later when Joe Chalmers curled a free kick round the bottom of the wall into the vacant space beside the near post. Great strike and another that was in as soon as it left his laces.
Dunfermline are a class act though and continued to play football as did Inverness and the game was moving swiftly from end to end in a great advert for the Championship.
Fraser Aird brought out a fine save from Mark Ridgers with both sides probing for an opening and near the interval Nathan Austin broke down the left, cutting into the box but shot from a tight angle when a ball across the box might have been more beneficial.
Half Time 1-1
The hosts exploded out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Liam Polworth and George Oakley both went close. We would do even better a minute later.
Nathan Austin tussled for a ball around the half way line. He held the troublesome defender at bay for thirty yards and as he entered the box he landed a thumper of a shot which blurred behind the keeper for an absolutely superb goal.
Inverness were in total control at this point and looked most likely to extend their lead with Seedorf and Donaldson going close to doing just that.
A bit of a delay as a clash of heads saw Oakley being bandaged like Butcher and a Pars player also receiving attention. That would prove costly later.
Substitute Jo Cardle went close for the visitors around twenty minutes from the end as Dunfermline got their second wind.
Another substitute, Daniel Mackay could have sealed it for Inverness after great work by Aaron Doran down the left. He cut into the box and rolled the ball across to the other side where young Dan had made great strides to get into the box. Unfortunately his first time strike whistled just past the outside of the post.
We would pay for that miss deep into injury time when Dunfermline won a simple free kick some forty yards from goal. Cardle swung a dangerous ball into the box and Nicky Clark silenced the home fans and sent the away fans delirious with a header that found it's way into the net for that all important leveller.
Full Time 2-2
There was barely time to kick off and that was that. The dream almost done and dusted unless Dumbarton could do us a massive favour by beating the Pars next Saturday. It could all be irrelevant should we fail to win our last two games anyway, starting with Livingston on Tuesday night and ending at Greenock on Saturday.
It had been a pulsating game with plenty of slick football from both sides. Inverness probably should have seen this one out having got their noses in front, but credit to the Pars for hanging in there. I suppose nobody could really complain about the final result but it was a hard one to take.
Difficult to pick a clear MotM, but Nathan Austin got my vote for that goal alone. What a strike, showing pace, power, skill and determination. He was ably assisted by Liam Polworth, the tireless George Oakley and Aaron Doran who had the beating of the defence and was a threat whenever he went forward. Young Player of the Year Coll Donaldson put in another good shift at the heart of the defence and he would have been my pick for Player of the Year.
It's not over until the fat lady sings, but she's on the final verse now. All we can do is beat Livingston and see what happens next Saturday. Unfortunately I fear the worst, but it has been a great comeback to the season after a horrendous start.
Brad Mckay agrees with that, and here is his tweet: Agony that, boys have been unbelievable in the last 2 months. Unbeaten in 10 games, bad start to the season cost us dearly in the end. We keep going last two games and see what’s what.
Coll Donaldson was just as gutted............
Such a disappointing end to a fantastic run! Means a lot for the team mates to vote me in as this though. Small consolation on a day like today but already looking forward to what we can achieve next year.
Match highlights from Caley Jags TV
Here's the goal that ruined our weekend................................
Alan Johnston talks after the game
Cup Final hero from 2015 James Vincent has his say................