Inverness CT 0-0 St Mirren

Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Mirren were left frustrated by their failure to convert chances in an evenly matched contest in the Highlands.

Saints' Paul McGowan was twice guilty of shooting straight at goalkeeper Ryan Esson with the goal gaping.

Two Steven Thompson headers kept Esson on his toes but after the break Inverness went on the attack.

Gregory Tade knocked a simple chance wide and debutant Claude Gnakpa hit the post but the game ended in stalemate.

The match started tamely with neither side finding any rhythm but most of the first-half chances fell to St Mirren.

With 14 minutes on the clock, McGowan was through on Esson but, with time to pick his spot, he hit the ball straight at the goalie and the chance was squandered.

Midfielder Greg Tansey ballooned a shot high over the St Mirren bar and in to the travelling fans when greater composure would at least have tested Craig Samson.

Inverness, buoyed by captain Richie Foran's decision to extend his contract by two years, struggled to get past Saints' central defensive pairing of Marc McAusland and Lee Mair.

And they could have gone behind when marauding striker Thompson almost caught out Inverness with a head flick after 23 minutes that looped just over the bar.

Dougie Imrie shields the ball from Kenny Gillet
Imrie and Gillet compete for possession in the SPL stalemate

St Mirren had some good signing news of their own last week, when skipper Jim Goodwin signed a new contract in Paisley but a calf strain ruled him out.

Another Thompson header was pounced upon by Esson, his fourth save by that point, while the Saints keeper had not had a save to make.

Terry Butcher, the Inverness manager, has guided his team to a run of wins and draws - they last lost on 17 December, away to Rangers - but they were a shadow of their recent selves until the stroke of half-time when they carved out their first good chance.

Kenny Gillet moved the ball on to his right foot, his weaker foot, and pinged a low shot that flew a yard past the St Mirren post.

A half-time team talk by Butcher, not one to mince his words, seemed to enliven the home side and within a few minutes of the restart striker Tade had two chances to break the deadlock.

First, on the left of the box, he opted to cut the ball back to an invisible team-mate instead of shooting at goal.

But worse was to follow. A Jonny Hayes cross fell to the Frenchman three yards from goal but somehow he knocked the ball past the back post.

Graham Carey, St Mirren's free-kick expert, smacked one well wide of Esson's goal and with almost an hour gone one had the feeling the fans would not witness a goal.

Esson made a save from David Barron before Danny Lennon's side wasted a gilt-edged chance.

Thompson did well to set up striker McGowan who controlled the ball then meekly rolled his shot in to Esson's arms with the goal at his mercy.

Either side of that miss, Butcher made two substitutions, sending on new signings Gnakpa and Sam Winnall for Shane Sutherland and Tade respectively.

And Gnakpa endeared himself to the Caley Thistle fans immediately when he thumped a low shot off the Buddies post.

Lennon introduced Gary Teale and Hugh Murray for Steven Thomson and Carey in an attempt to freshen things up for his team, but neither could influence proceedings.

Inverness had a late chance when Nick Ross cut in from the left and let fly but his shot was saved by Samson.

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