Cup of Cheer
In a pulsating Cup derby Aaron Doran put the visitors ahead with a fantastic goal after thirteen minutes, firing home from range. It remained that way at the interval but substitute Ross Stewart pulled the tie level soon after coming on. Brad McKay lashed Inverness ahead but Josh Mullin squared it in time added on to send this tie to a replay on Tuesday 19th February.
The draw took place after this game and here are the fixtures.
Aberdeen v Rangers/Kilmarnock
Dundee United v Inverness /Ross County
Partick Thistle v Hearts
Hibs v Celtic
Inverness boss John Robertson sprang a handful of surprises by giving starts to recent injury victims Mark Ridgers, Tom Walsh, Coll Donaldson, Carl Tremarco and Aaron Doran. Jordan White would spearhead the attack. Shaun Rooney made the bench along with Nathan Austin, and Darren McCauley.
County's former Inverness players Billy Mckay and Ross Draper started for County along with Kenny Van Der Weg. The effervescent Michael Gardyne would be the provider with Brian Graham the target man. Josh Mullin and Declan McManus were on the bench.
A cagey opening few minutes as both sides jockeyed for position was ended when Billy Mckay dipped an angled volley over the bar after five minutes.
Inverness responded by winning a corner but the ball to the back post produced nothing and Michael Gardyne looked to be the danger man for the hosts as he forced a corner at the other end after a good run forward. Jamie Lindsay drilled a deep cross wide of the target from the corner.
A bit of a midfield battle ensued as the sides struggled to get to grips with the game and Liam Polworth won a free kick as Van Der Weg handled on the edge of the box. Joe Chalmers forced Fox into an excellent save as he curled low to the near post, however the visitors kept the ball around the County box, and when Aaron Doran latched onto a headed pass forward from Tremarco some 25 yards out. He turned and whipped a vicious half volley low behind the outstretched Fox for a superb opening goal.
Gardyne broke into the box after 25 minutes but his shot was blocked at the expense of a corner. Gardyne took it himself but Mark Ridgers came out to gather the cross confidently. Gardyne was at it again and his floated cross caused problems but was turned behind for a corner which Ridgers gathered again. It was Gardyne against Ridgers now and Mark turned a stabbed effort behind for a corner, diving low to his right.
Inverness broke forward and Tom Walsh almost emulated Doran's strike but Fox made a brilliant diving save to deny Walsh a second Inverness goal.
County were racking up the corners after a Brian Graham shot was deflected wide but again it came to nothing better than a free kick for the visitors.
A ball forward saw Fox have to block from Tom Walsh as the Inverness wide player sped into the box and flicked the ball goalwards. A few moments later Walsh saw an effort deflected for a corner as the Caley Jags pressed for a second goal before the break. Yet another great break forward by Doran who fed Brad McKay but the wing back saw his cross cut out for a corner.
As Inverness gathered momentum once more, the first half drew to a close with the visitors on top.
Half Time 0-1
There were no changes at the interval and County would be playing towards the Jailend after the break, and that usually inspires them to greater things.
Scott Fox had to make an unorthodox stop to deny a piledriver from Carl Tremarco, the keeper eventually keeping the ball out with his knees as the ball fizzed goalwards. Great effort from Tommy.
Ross Stewart replaced the ineffective Brian Graham and within a couple of minutes he drew County level after some untidy midfield play saw Gardyne drive the ball into the box where Stewart volleyed home.
Doran spurned a glorious chance to put Inverness back in front but he mistimed his header and sent it wide when he should have hit the target.
It was end to end stuff now in typical derby cup-tie fashion.
Liam Polworth flashed a powerful shot towards the County goal that was head deflected for a corner. From the resultant corner Brad McKay found the ball at his feet a few yards out and he smashed it high into the net.
Walsh broke down the left but his shot was a bit ambitious and it went well wide.
County won a free kick just outside the box after Chalmers upended the dangerous Gardyne, but after the shot was blocked County were penalised and the danger was over.
Carl Tremarco was having a magnificent game at the back and was putting his body on the line time and time again as County threw balls into the box, but the wee man stood firm.
Substitution for Inverness as Doran was replaced by former Coleraine player Darren McCauley as Ridgers mopped up another ball into the box.
Almost a chance to get a third as a ball is flicked into the six yard box but it runs through to Fox. And as the rain started to fall a mistake at the back by County let Walsh speed forward. He lashed a shot to the top corner but Fox pulled off another great save to deny the Inverness man.
Shaun Rooney had replaced the injured Coll Donaldson by now and we re-jigged at the back with Brad moving inside.
A loose ball some 30 yards out found Chalmers but it was wasted and McManus wasted an effort at the other end. They would not be denied though as our defence parted and Substitute Josh Mullin squeezed the ball through the exposed Ridgers in time added on.
A dangerous free kick by County was wasted as they looked to get ahead in added time with Inverness now hanging on a tad, but the late comeback by County was just enough to earn the Dingwall side a replay as time ran out.
Inverness were best served by Aaron Doran, Tom Walsh, Coll Donaldson and Jamie McCart, but none better than Carl Tremarco.
The biased Bill Dodds gave the TV MotM to Michael Gardyne who was undoubtedly County's most influential player.
Another frustrating night for Inverness who have held the upper hand in all four derby's this season with little to show for it.
On BBC Sport:-
Inverness CT manager John Robertson: "It's just about being street-smart. They stopped. "You just keep defending but they've let Josh Mullin through and he's scored. That sums up our season. We've been in the lead and given away a goal at the end. We now have a replay to play so we'll just get on with it. "We felt we were getting close to that third goal which would have finished the game off. We didn't see where their goal was going to come from. That's the difference. That's why we're fourth in the league and County are top."
Ross County co-manager Steven Ferguson: "We always felt there would be one more chance in the game. Josh is well onside and does great to finish it. "The players never know when they're beaten. Sometimes it's not pretty and you have to put your shoulder to the wheel and the players deserve all the credit for that. "I don't think either us would have wanted a replay. We're delighted we're still in the hat."
Robbo after the event..............