Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 Celtic 1

Last updated : 18 December 2005 By Footymad Previewer
A tremendous match in Inverness saw Caley Thistle earn a deserved 1-1 draw against SPL leaders Celtic.

The majority of the talk on the day was centred on Celtic's major signing, former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland skipper Roy Keane, who did not make the trip north to watch.

He's not clear to play until January 8 when Celtic face Clyde in the Scottish Cup for what is sure to be quite an occasion.

Last season, the Hoops recorded a clean sweep against Caley Thistle, scoring eight goals and conceding just one in the process. However, two months ago, the Highlanders pushed them all the way before being edged out 2-1 at Parkhead.

Since then, such has been the Inverness team's improvement, they went into this clash in sixth spot in the SPL.

Gordon Strachan named the same starting line-up that saw off Hibs last week. Inverness had Roy McBain replacing the injured David Proctor, while Darren Dods returned from suspension at the expense of Stuart McCaffrey.

And, what a start from Caley Thistle. Just over 30 seconds was played when Craig Dargo netted from a Ross Tokely throw-in, which was knocked on by player-boss Craig Brewster.

Mark Brown came to the hosts' rescue when he got down well to push away a Neil Lennon drive after 14 minutes.

Moments later, the keeper again did well again to block a net-bound Shaun Maloney shot as the Inverness defence went to sleep.

Celtic did find the net in their next attack from a corner, but Maloney felled Dods to get to it and it was chopped off.

However, on 21 minutes, the Hoops levelled it when Ross Wallace raced down the left flank and crossed for John Hartson, who buried high into the roof of the goal.

Barry Wilson tried to respond immediately, but his low drive was held by Polish keeper Artur Boruc.

Caley Thistle squandered a golden chance to regain the lead when Dargo was felled in box by Stephen McManus to win a penalty.

The striker took it himself, but his weak drive was held by Boruc to maintain level status.

The question was who would react better to that vital moment?

The first half though was played out without any further real chances and it stood 1-1 at the break.

Ten minutes after the interval, Brewster beat the offside trap, but not Boruc, who saved well.

At the other end, Brown pulled off another fine stop, this time from Hartson. McGeady then missed an open goal from just six yards as Celtic pierced through the Inverness rearguard.

Brewster almost shot his side ahead on 67 minutes, but his volley from Wilson's delivery flashed just wide.

Then Brewster forced an incredible save by Boruc from fully 25 yards, as the Highlanders upped the pace.

As Caley Thistle finished strongly, Russell Duncan blasted over the bar after sterling work from the impressive Dargo.

A superb save by Brown in the closing minutes denied Stilian Petrov, whose drive was from outside the area.

However, there were no more goals and Caley Thistle would have been the happier with an excellent point. It means the Hoops hold a four-point lead over title-chasers Hearts and Inverness maintain their sixth spot in the table.