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Inverness 0-0 Arbroath: Premiership play-off finely poised after first-leg stalemate in Highlands

Tam O'Brien frequently put his body on the line for Arbroath.
Tam O'Brien frequently put his body on the line for Arbroath.

Arbroath have set up a scintillating Premiership play-off semi-final second leg after holding Inverness to a 0-0 draw in the Highlands.

It may not have been a game for the purists, but the Lichties will be delighted with the tie at all-square ahead of the deciding leg at Gayfield.

Dick Campbell’s side will now fancy their chances at home on Friday with the tie finely-poised.

The Arbroath gaffer resorted to his usual starting XI after fielding a much-changed side in their 3-0 victory over Morton, with only Jason Thomson, Thomas O’Brien and Scott Stewart retaining their places.

Inverness, meanwhile, stuck with the same team that beat Partick Thistle 3-1 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage.

First-half stalemate

The visitors looked the livelier of the sides in the opening periods as Arbroath looked to make a better start to the game than in their previous visit to the Caledonian Stadium.

And they were almost ahead on 11 minute with Michael McKenna firing over from close range.

The effort came after a well-worked move as Jason Thomson floated a deep ball into the box. Jack Hamilton headed back across goal but the Championship top scorer couldn’t keep his effort on target under pressure from the Caley defence.

The Lichties talisman came close moments prior when his cross was picked up by the swirling wind forcing Mark Ridgers into action.

Michael McKenna of Arbroath tussles with Logan Chalmers
Michael McKenna of Arbroath tussles with Logan Chalmers

Midway through the half, Caley began to grow into the game with player of the month winner Logan Chalmers posing a threat down the left.

Austin Samuels looked dangerous too and on 36 mins he found his way past Ricky Little, who stumbled out wide. The Jags attacker couldn’t make the most of the chance, with the Lichties clearing the danger.

Just a minute later it was Chalmers again causing problems. This time the on-loan Dundee United striker struck the bar with a magnificent shot from 25 yards.

The game seemed to burst into life as Arbroath burst up the field from the rebound, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box.

Nicky Low saw his shot well-saved by Ridgers.

Both sides played some nice football in the half but lacked a cutting edge in the as they looked to make the breakthrough.

Resolute Lichties defending

Arbroath seemed happy to absorb any Caley pressure at the start of the second half and hit them on the counter.

And they almost had the opener if not for a last-ditch tackle from Daniel Devine.

Nicky Low played an inch-perfect ball over the top for Jack Hamilton who looked set to pull the trigger, but for the heroics of the Inverness centre-back.

Chris Hamilton chases down Shane Sutherland.
Chris Hamilton chases down Shane Sutherland.

Caley were forced to be patient in their play with the Lichties smothering out any attack in the middle of the park.

The home side still showed some signs of a threat, though, as Tam O’Brien took one for the team, earning a yellow card for cynically hauling down Samuels as he looked to burst through.

The Lichties could count themselves lucky not to be a goal down on 65 minutes, with Chalmers firing wide after beating Colin Hamilton on the edge of the box. His curling shot from an angle flashed inches past Derek Gaston’s far post.

Arbroath's James Craigen on the ball.
Arbroath’s James Craigen on the ball.

Gaston was called into action moments later making an excellent save to deny Samuels from 12 yards out as Thistle looked to be turning the screw.

And the home side had their third effort in quick succession as Aaron Doran saw his effort from distance go over.

Arbroath’s chances started to become few and far between as the visitors became pegged back further in their half.

Inverness had waves of attack but couldn’t find a way through as the first-leg ended all-square with everything still to play for on Friday.

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