Buddies battle back for a point

McGregor struck in the 74th minute after Adam Rooney netted his

second goal of the game to put Inverness back in front following a

counter-attack. Rooney had struck first early on but St Mirren

turned the game around inside 77 seconds when Michael Higdon netted

a penalty and Steven Thomson struck from long range. Aaron Doran

quickly levelled in the 33rd minute though before Saints edged the

second half without getting their rewards. Both teams remain

without a Clydesdale Bank Premier League victory in 2011 but the

draw consolidated Caley Thistle’s place in the top six and moved St

Mirren five points clear of bottom club Hamilton. Inverness named

five substitutes out of the seven allowed amid a host of injuries

to the likes of Graeme Shinnie and suspensions to Grant Munro and

Ross Tokely, but they created two chances within the first two

minutes with Jonny Hayes hooking a shot straight at Paul Gallacher

after 13 seconds. Doran’s low cross then found Richie Foran in a

yard of space on the penalty spot, but the forward scuffed a

left-footed shot straight at the goalkeeper. However, Foran helped

set up a sixth-minute opener when he flicked on Ryan Esson’s long

free-kick. Rooney turned McGregor and hooked the ball past the

onrushing Gallacher from 10 yards. It took Saints 24 minutes to

stretch their opponents when right-sided midfielder David van

Zanten released the breaking Thomson but Esson got down well to

palm away the midfielder’s angled shot. The visitors had a let-off

when the rebound bounced just too high for Higdon and Hugh Murray,

making his first start for three months in place of the suspended

Jim Goodwin, stabbed the ball against the outside of the post from

eight yards. Caley Thistle’s luck soon ran out as Hayes, who has

been struggling with an ankle problem, went off for Eric Odhiambo

moments before they conceded a penalty. The ball broke kindly for

Craig Dargo after a challenge from David Proctor and the former

Inverness striker went down over the left-back’s outstretched leg

with referee Bobby Madden pointing to the spot. Higdon sent Esson

the wrong way and St Mirren were ahead 77 seconds later. Dargo held

the ball up and laid it off for Thomson to fire a first-time strike

into the top corner from 20 yards to give Saints a 29th-minute

lead. But Inverness soon levelled when the St Mirren defence missed

a cross from Proctor, now playing at right-back, and Doran ran

across Marc McAusland to prod the ball past Gallacher from close

range. Saints immediately tried to hit back and Paul McGowan and

Higdon both came close from long range while Dargo looked dangerous

whenever he was allowed to turn and run at the away defence.

McGowan was then booked for diving after a penalty-box challenge

from Odhiambo. The goalmouth action continued immediately after the

break when Foran volleyed a deep cross from Lee Cox not far wide

and Inverness soon had a double escape. Jure Travner, on for Lee

Mair at half-time, swung a corner to the back post for McGregor to

head against the crossbar and Foran dived to head against the

outside of the post as he cleared the rebound. Left-back Travner

was breaking forward to good effect as Saints dominated possession

and Chris Hogg did well to head clear his inswinging free-kick

after Doran had been booked for a foul on Van Zanten. But the hosts

were hit by a sucker-punch in the 61st minute. Another dangerous

Travner cross was cleared and the visitors quickly got the ball up

to Foran, who turned McGregor inside the centre circle and threaded

the ball through for Rooney. The striker outpaced John Potter and

fired a left-footed shot across Gallacher and into the bottom

corner from 16 yards. The hosts continued to probe with the skilful

and persistent McGowan at the heart of their approach play and they

were rewarded in the 74th minute when McGregor rose to head

Travner’s outswinging corner into the roof of the net from 10

yards. The defender almost repeated the feat from the same source

with four minutes left but Esson parried the ball over from

point-blank range.