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Reece McAlear double brings Inverness Caledonian Thistle promotion hopes back from the dead in Premiership Play-off Final First Leg against St Johnstone

By Will Clark

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Premiership Play-off final first leg

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2

St Johnstone 2

Scorers – Inverness: McAlear (73, 80) St Johnstone: Rooney (18) Hallberg (24)

Reece McAlear was the hero for Inverness.
Reece McAlear was the hero for Inverness.

Reece McAlear brought Inverness Caledonian Thistle back from the dead to earn a draw against St Johnstone in a pulsating Premiership Play-off Final first leg.

Shaun Rooney came back to haunt his former club as he gave St Johnstone the lead before Melker Hallberg doubled their advantage in a horror first quarter.

But McAlear scored midway through the second half to reduce the deficit to one. He then scored a free kick from 25 yards out to level the game.

There were four changes Inverness Caledonian Thistle made from the team that saw Arbroath off on penalties.

Cameron Harper, Billy Mckay, Joe Hardy and Lewis Hyde were in the starting line up.

Logan Chalmers and Austin Samuels were on the bench with Shane Sutherland out injured and Danny Devine suspended.

The first real chance of the game fell to St Johnstone after five minutes when Shaun Rooney set up Glenn Middleton at the edge of the box and fired a shot which forced a great save from Mark Ridgers.

Rooney was in confident mood against his former club early on trying a few efforts from distance.

He then gave St Johnstone the lead when Melker Hallberg's cross found Rooney on the edge of the six yard box and he towered above Cameron Harper and powered past Ridgers.

Six minutes later, the visitors doubled their advantage when Callum Hendry's shot was blocked by Ridgers and resulted in a scramble in the box.

The ball eventually fell to Hallberg, who fired in from close range to give them a 2-0 lead as Inverness were left shellshocked.

Inverness made two changes at half time as Logan Chalmers and Austin Samuels came on for Aaron Doran and Joe Hardy as they played four at the back.

But St Johnstone burst out of the traps looking for a third with Hendry firing a shot which Ridgers had to do well to parry out for a corner.

Inverness looked livelier in the second half with Samuels causing problems on the right wing. He sent a great cross into the box which Chalmers almost got on the end of.

Billy Mckay also came to life in the second half and caused problems with a cross which Jamie McCart had to deal with to knock out for a corner.

Chalmers was making a difference to Inverness after the break causing issues on the left wing,

Midway through the second half sent a great cross into the box but there were no takers through a crowd of players.

But Inverness did pull one back with 17 minutes remaining as Samuels got on the end of a long ball on the right wing and his cross found McAlear who fired a fantastic strike into the top left corner.

He then levelled the game with 10 minutes remaining with a free kick after Murray Davidson fouled Mckay.

From 25 yards out McAlear fired a thunderous effort into the top left corner to make it 2–2.

Mckay almost won it at the end when he got to the end of a Samuels cross in the six yard box but fired wide of the right post.

Inverness head to St Johnstone on Monday at 7.45pm.

Inverness: Ridgers, Harper, Welsh, Deas, Carson, Mckay, Doran (Chalmers 45), Broadfoot, Hardy (Samuels 45), McAlear, Hyde (Allardice 56).

Substitutes: Mackay, Mackay, Strachan.

St Johnstone: Clark, Brown, McCart, Cleary, Gordon, Davidson, Middleton (May 66), Macpherson, Rooney, Hendry, Hallberg (Butterfield 66).

Substitutes: Parish, O'Halloran, Gilmour, Mahon, Ciftci, Craig, Sang.

Referee: Bobby Madden

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