What a turnaround
An understrength Inverness struggled badly for an hour against a solid St Johnstone who took a two goal lead into the interval. Shaun Rooney and Melker Hallberg put the Saints in the driving seat. However, step forward Reece McAlear and take a massive bow. A thumping strike off the underside of the bar and an exquisite curling free kick levelled matters and gives us something to play for in the return leg at Perth, where we should have Danny Devine and Wallace Duffy back after suspension.
After seeing off Partick Thistle and Arbroath, The Caley Jags faced St Johnstone in the first leg of the Premiership play-off final at the Caledonian Stadium. Unfortunately the final has already been influenced by other factors. Injuries to Tom Walsh, Shane Sutherland and Roddy MacGregor have been added to by the incompetence of referee Willie Collum at Gayfield where he wrongly sent off Danny Devine and Wallace Duffy. What that means is that Inverness will be short on players in an already wafer thin squad. Youngsters Mathew Strachan and Calum Mackay made up a six man bench. Tony Gallacher Chris Kane, David Wotherspoon and Craig Bryson are all long term injuries for St Johnstone who rested six players for their final league game, a 4-0 loss to Hibs.
Rain an hour before kick off dampened the atmosphere at the Caledonian Stadium and made for great conditions on a good pitch with Inverness getting the game underway.
A breathtaking save from Mark Ridgers denied Glen Middleton as he unleashed a ferocious shot after cutting across the outside of the box in the fifth minute. Ridgers diving high to his right to pull off a fantastic one handed save.
As expected, the visitors playing in red and white striped shirts, were making most of the early play and Ridgers was brought into action again to save a low shot from Shaun Rooney after fifteen minutes with a more routine save.
St Johnstone opened the scoring after eighteen minutes when Rooney powered in a header after an inviting cross into the box, probably from the area where Danny Devine would normally have been.
After a scramble in the home box when Ridgers pushed away a shot from Callum Hendry the ball was eventually forced over the line by Hallberg to double Saints lead.
Inverness were finding it difficult to make any headway against a robust looking premiership side and all the half chances were falling to the visitors.
When one did come our way Sean Welsh snatched at it and volleyed high and wide. Ten minutes later makeshift central defender Welsh took a knock but continued after treatment with five minutes to go before the interval.
Plenty to do for Inverness in the second half with St Johnstone cruising.
HALF TIME: 0-2
Dodds replaced Doran and Hardy with Chalmers and Samuels.
Early second half pressure saw another scramble in the home box however this time we managed to keep the ball out.
St Johnstone were all over us like a rash. If that was not bad enough we made a number of basic errors that led to more opportunities for the Perth side.
Scott Allardice replaced Lewis Hyde as we looked to get back into the game, but it was a long shot with the midfielder just back after serious injury.
Just after the hour, Middleton went close with a low shot that Ridgers looked to get a fingertip to, however a goal kick was the result.
Best effort for Inverness was a run down the left by Billy Mckay where his cross was cleared for a corner. From the corner Welsh volleyed high over again.
Chalmers was showing some great touches and turns and he also knocked a dangerous ball into the box but there were no takers.
Out of the blue Samuels went down the right and cut the ball back to the edge of the box where Reece McAlear smashed a superb shot into the roof of the net via the underside of the bar from fifteen yards. Game on!
Ten minutes before the end McAlear won a free kick about twenty five yards out. He picked himself up and curled a beauty into the top right corner of Zander Clarks goal. What a strike from a man who doesn't do tap ins against a 6ft 5" keeper.
Another great burst forward by Samuels almost resulted in a third for Inverness but Mckay was blocked out for a corner at the front post.
FULL TIME: 2-2
What a turnaround from Inverness after a torrid first hour. The second half substitutions were crucial to the outcome of this one and has reignited the Premiership flames for the Caley Jags. MotM was Reece McAlear with two absolute belters.
On to McDiarmid Park on Monday night and the tie is still very much alive.
"Inverness have come 𝐀𝐋𝐈𝐕𝐄!"— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) May 20, 2022
Reece McAlear grabs a goal back! What a strike 💥👏 pic.twitter.com/lwI9wfb8VD
From BBC Sport
Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Billy Dodds: "I had to change it at half-time, I had to do something. Luckily it worked but it wasn't just the changes, it was because of the desire of my players. "We really played well second half, once we got our goal. The subs were good. Two great goals from Reece McAlear. "We just want to go to McDiarmid with a fighting chance and put some pressure on because pressure tells in football. We've still got a big ask, we have to play better from the start than tonight but I think they realise they're good enough now."
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: "It's a poor refereeing decision for their first goal. It's two yards offside and it was a head knock. Two really poor decisions let them back in the game. They got a little bit of momentum. "For the first 60 minutes, we were outstanding. It's probably a little bit disappointing we didn't score more goals. It goes back to McDiarmid and it's up to us to win the game. "We need to go and perform like that on Monday. If we do, we'll be confident we can win the game. It's one game so let's go."
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