Stuart McLaren’s men produced a performance to be proud of in the Highlands but it was holders Caley Thistle who progressed to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.
In only our second live TV appearance it was another disciplined display by the Binos after the 0-0 draw at Forthbank in the first game but terrific goals by Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo and Iain Vigurs sent John Hughes’ side through to face Motherwell at Fir Park in the last 16.
On a cold night at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium we showed just one change from the January 9 meeting, with Ross McGeachie replacing the injured Kevin McKinlay. Ross McMillan was still out and new signing Scot Buist was ineligible as he wasn’t registered at the time of the original tie.
We started the game well and Steven Doris almost got beyond the home defence, only to be hauled down by Danny Williams – the first of four Inverness players booked – and he sent the resulting free-kick over the bar.
Darren Smith also stretched Caley Thistle but was crowded out and the Premiership side began to enjoy plenty of possession, albeit without doing much with it.
Gary Warren had a header scrambled clear but we were frustrating ICT, only for Mbuyi-Mutombo to break the deadlock with a stunning strike just before the half hour.
He was given too much space to come in off the left flank before thundering a 25-yarder high inside the post to give keeper Chris Smith no chance and claim his first goal for the club.
We were very much in the game, though, and had penalty appeals waved away early in the second half when Danny Devine blocked a Ross Forsyth shot – TV replays would suggest it was the correct decision by referee Mat Northcroft to wave play on.
Caley Thistle’s second goal came in 61 minutes when a break down the right saw Ross Draper tee up Vigurs and the midfielder swept the ball into the corner from 18 yards.
We never gave up and ended the match with more corners than our opponents but they had the goals and our first visit here since a 2-2 draw in April 1999 ended in an honourable defeat.
Inverness CT: Fon Williams, Raven, Warren, Devine, Williams, Tansey, Polworth (Fisher 76), Draper (Foran 83), Vigurs, Mbuyi-Mutombo (Roberts 83), Storey.
Subs (not used): Wedderburn, Brown, Sutherland, Esson (GK).
Scorers: Mbuyi-Mutombo 28, Vigurs 61
Stirling Albion: C Smith, Mazel, Forsyth, McGeachie, R Smith (Beattie 76), Robertson, Johnston (Cunningham 70), Comrie (Lamont 51), Doris, D Smith, Dickson.
Subs (not used): Hamilton, Verlaque, Kouider-Aissa, Binnie (GK).
Referee: Mat Northcroft