John Robertson’s Inverness Caledonian Thistle side bounced back from the concession of Saturday’s 95th minute equaliser by Dunfermline Athletic by defeating second placed Livingston at The Tony Macaroni Arena.
David Hopkin’s side showed numerous changes to what has been a very settled line-up throughout the season. Fringe players such as goalkeeper Gary Maley, defender Jack McMillan and midfielder Jordan Thompson.
While, the visitors made just one change from their 2-2 draw with the Pars, with Nathan Austin dropping to the bench to be replaced by Connor Bell. Iain Vigurs remained suspended for Caley while experienced defender Gary Warren was also unavailable, through an injury he picked up against Dumbarton six days prior.
The game was a slow burner until the 11th minute, when Adam Frizzell had a pop at goal, but his right-footed effort was saved in the bottom left-hand corner by Mark Ridgers.
The home side remained in the ascendency as Ryan Hardie saw a shot blocked before Hopkin’s West Lothian club won three consecutive corners. Despite nothing coming of those chances, the Lions remained the more likely to score.
Raffaele De Vita missed a great chance from inside the 6-yard box, as he dragged his shot wide before Hardie made Ridgers work again from inside the area, with the on-loan Rangers front-man seeing his left-footed attempt saved by the former Scotland Under-21 shot-stopper.
Next, it was Inverness’ turn to try their luck at goal, unleashing their first effort of the evening through Liam Polworth, but, the midfielder’s effort was straight down the throat of Maley.
Polworth would have another go shortly after, but his dig at goal from range was saved in the top left corner by Maley. Then, Gregor Buchanan got his head on to a cross into the box after Coll Donaldson conceded a corner, but, the effort was off-target.
George Oakley saw a shot blocked while Josh Mullin sliced his shot wide of target at the other end as both sides headed in at the break without managing to break the deadlock. Both keepers were worked but neither side were able to take control of the match for a prolonged spell.
However, just seconds into the second-half, Polworth would find the net. Third time lucky for the Jags playmaker as he rifled in a low driven effort which found the bottom left-hand corner, after being teed up by Canadian internationalist, Charlie Trafford.
He almost grabbed a quickfire second but his left-footed shot was well off-target as he blazed over the bar. Soon after, Thompson came close with an attempt from outside the box which went narrowly wide of Ridgers’ right-post.
McMillan failed to capitalise on a good opportunity for the hosts as he blasted his attempt behind Ridgers’ net and into the empty stand behind the goal. Then, on 58 minutes, Nicky Cadden was brought on out-wide, with Mullin going off due to an injury picked up during the encounter.
Not long after and it was Robertson who was forced into a switch as Aaron Doran had to retire through an injury of his own. Reported Heart of Midlothian target Jake Mulraney entered the field of play just after the hour mark as the away side looked to find a second which could secure a vital three points in their battle for the promotion play-offs.
Joe Chalmers was next to let fly, feeling confident following his fantastic free-kick against Dunfermline just three days prior. This time, the ex-Celtic youngster was unable to convert as he saw his shot saved by Maley.
Livi would make their final two changes, with club captain Craig Halkett and experienced striker Lee Miller entering the fray in place of Frizzell and McMillan, respectively.
Oakley saw another attempt charged down before Hardie almost got the equaliser, forcing Ridgers into another fine stop down low to deny the Scotland Under-21 attacker.
Declan Gallagher nodded wide of goal as Livingston piled the pressure on, with the defender almost converting following a corner. Polworth tried an ambitious effort from a direct free-kick but he was less accurate with this attempt with it not troubling Maley on this occasion.
With ten minutes to go, Halkett struck well but couldn’t direct his effort on target before De Vita could only launch the ball high over the bar as Caley failed to safely defend another corner situation.
Halkett missed another chance, as he headed wide, with the hosts unable to take advantage of their dozen corners won during this re-arranged Championship clash.
Zak Elbouzedi came on for Bell in the closing stages but no further chances of note were taken. It was a decent performance by Livingston considering the changes they made and the fact that they had already secured their place in the Premiership Promotion Play-Offs with a guaranteed finish of 2nd in the SPFL’s second-tier.
On another night, Caley could’ve conceded to condemn themselves to another year within the old Division One, but, Polworth’s strike, alongside side some good, solid, defending, has set up the chance of Inverness pulling off “a miracle”, which boss Robertson explained on Saturday would need to happen if they are to pip the Pars to the post. Dunfermline face second bottom Dumbarton at East End Park on Saturday while Caley travel to Cappielow. Anything bar a win over Morton would seal Thistle’s fate in Greenock, while, a point for Allan Johnston’s men should secure a top four finish for the Fifers.
FULL-TIME: Livingston 0-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
20. Gary Maley
2. Jack McMillan (Lee Miller 71′)
5. Gregor Buchanan
31. Declan Gallagher
3. Jackson Longridge
7. Josh Mullin (Nicky Cadden 58′)
17. Scott Robinson
24. Jordan Thompson
19. Adam Frizzell (Craig Halkett 71′)
23. Raffaele De Vita
9. Ryan Hardie
1. Neil Alexander (GK)
6. Shaun Byrne
8. Scott Pittman
11. Nicky Cadden
14. Keaghan Jacobs
18. Lee Miller
26. Craig Halkett
28. Mark Ridgers
17. Colin Seedorf
22. Brad McKay
23. Coll Donaldson
3. Carl Tremarco
7. Liam Polworth
24. Charlie Trafford
4. Joe Chalmers
10. Aaron Doran (Jake Mulraney 60′)
14. George Oakley
20. Connor Bell (Zak Elbouzedi 86′)
1. Ryan Esson (GK)
8. Nathan Austin
15. Jake Mulraney
16. Riccardo Calder
18. Zak Elbouzedi
27. Daniel Mackay
32. Jack Brown
Referee: Colin Steven