Stenhousemuir went agonisingly close to dumping another SPL side out of the Scottish Communities Cup on Tuesday night.
Martyn Corrigan’s team swept aside Kilmarnock the last time they faced top-flight opposition and many observers fancied their chances to repeat that feat when they took on Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Ochilview in the third round.
But despite dominating possession for long periods of the game, and recovering from losing an early goal, Stenny ultimately were denied in a sudden death penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of football had failed to separate them from their opponents.
Darren Smith had his spot-kick saved by Caley keeper Esson, handing the Highland side a 6-5 win on penalties after the match ended 1-1 after extra-time.
It was a cruel blow for Smith, and for Stenny, who worked hard throughout and had several chances to win the game.
Brown Ferguson equalised from the penalty spot shortly before half-time after Wille McKay had fired the visitors into the lead.
The Warriors took the game to their SPL opponents from the start playing exciting passing football, despite the horrendous conditions at Ochilview.
There was little between the sides and the opener for the Highlanders in the 22nd minute was a tad fortuitous. Josh Meeking’s ball into the middle was hopeful at best, but when it took a deflection Willie McKay was left to nod the ball over the advancing Thomson and into the net.
Caley went on to enjoy a good spell of possession, but Martin Corrigan’s men are no quitters and they were right back in it eight minutes from the break.
Brown Ferguson bored into the box and was brought to the ground by David Raven. Ferguson picked himself up to blast high past Ryan Esson for the equaliser.
But after an evenly matched second period and a tense additional half-hour, it was penalties that would decide this tie.