Scottish Cup: Inverness CT 2-0 Stranraer
A Nick Ross fluke and a late Aaron Doran strike earned Inverness victory over Stranraer in the Scottish Cup.
The unfortunate Scott Robertson cannoned the ball off the shins of Ross in the third minute to give the hosts the perfect start.
It was harsh on the far-travelled visitors who bounced back to once again provide a tougher than expected test in the last 16 replay.
But Doran's late strike keeps Caley Thistle on course for a cup double.
Next month, the Highlanders will be at home to Dundee United in the last eight, the week before they meet Aberdeen in the League Cup final.
After making the long trip north, Stranraer were nearly sent homewards without kicking a ball as heavy rain threatened to postpone the game. However, referee Alan Muir eventually gave the go ahead on a heavily sanded pitch.
And the Stair Park men may have been cursing that decision when they found themselves behind early.
The home team were determined to test the visitors for early jitters and after getting such a lucky break for the opener, Graeme Shinnie almost finished a neat counter-attack but goalkeeper David Mitchell was equal to his effort.
It wasn't all one-way traffic though, and as the first-half wore on the part-time League One side began to find their feet. Sean Winter stole into the box but sent his shot straight at Dean Brill.
Shinnie again had an opportunity to double the home advantage after good play from Ross down the left, but couldn't finish the chance. That kept Stranraer hopes alive and when Ross Draper picked up a booking for a foul on Mark Doherty, Andrew Stirling swung in a dangerous goal-bound free-kick which Richie Foran did well to clear.
Ross continued to be a threat and when he found the ever-dangerous Billy McKay it took another important save from Mitchell to deny the striker, but Stephen Aitken's men went in at the break very much in the game.
Chances were not so plentiful in the second half and John Hughes's men were struggling to finish off the tie. McKay did have the ball in the net just past the hour mark but he was ruled offside.
Caley Thistle were dominating but creating only half chances, and Steven Bell almost levelled with a long, swerving shot which tested all of Brill's abilities as he palmed the ball away from the top corner.
The tie remained alive going into the last few minutes, but substitute Doran hit a late winner after a great run by Shinnie, sending a dipping ball beyond Mitchell to set up a mouth-watering tie with United.
Inverness CT manager John Hughes: "A lot of the credit has to go to Stranraer. I said to the boys at half-time we've got to get closer to them, to match up, get on the front foot and go press them.
"For us on a sticky pitch it was all about getting through, we're thankful that is the case. We left it late, we always seem to make it difficult for ourselves up here. We were in total control in terms of getting on the ball and creating chances, but I've seen us play better.
"There's something happening up here. We've got a lot of games coming up, if we can keep everyone injury and suspension free, then the squad's big enough and good enough to cope. We'll just keep winning football matches and see where it takes us."
Stranraer manager Stephen Aitken: "We played well. I thought we competed well, again, over two games. Maybe the wee bit of quality they had over the two legs done us in. But I can't fault my players.
"The conditions weren't ideal but I thought the two teams especially tried to make it a cup tie. We fought very hard against a very good side. You don't get to a League Cup final if you're a poor side."
- 8DraperBooked at 36minsSubstituted forDoranat 67'minutes
- 11RossSubstituted forWatkinsat 80'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 3DochertyBooked at 69mins
- 6BellBooked at 90mins
- 7WinterSubstituted forMcKennaat 67'minutes
- 10LongworthSubstituted forFordeat 75'minutes
- Alan Muir
- Shots on Target