There was a surprise for the Spiders supporters ahead of kick-off in the Highlands when it was announced that Connor Shields had joined from Motherwell on loan however the news that goal-grabber Simon Murray was in Dingwall and not Inverness caused a sharper intake of breath.
The club captain was on the bench for Ross County as opposed to facing Caley after making a quick fire move to Malky Mackay’s side with Queen’s fans left, with amongst other memories, a certain penalty at Airdrie and a four-goal haul at Cove Rangers.
Shields was cup-tied however Euan Henderson made his first start in attack with Stephen Eze returning in defence in place of Lee Kilday who was on the bench with a third change seeing Louis Longridge replacing Jack Thomson who dropped out of the squad.
Tommy Robson skippered the side which got off to a quick start when Grant Savoury darted forward in the first 30 seconds and sent a shot just over the bar from 20 yards.
With four minutes gone Jake Davidson reached the hosts’ by-line and hooked the ball into the danger area however it was cleared.
Malachi Boateng warmed the away fans with a charging run on six minutes that took him through three tackles and won a corner that Inverness cleared despite Dom Thomas’ determination to create space for a shot.
On 14 minutes Thomas chipped a free-kick from 30 yards into the Inverness box towards Eze, who had wriggled clear, but the big defender was unable to force his effort goalward.
Caley’s first chance came two minutes later through a Sean Welsh volley after a Charlie Fox header dropped into his path with Calum Ferrie untroubled as the ball went well over.
Billy Dodds’ side created another chance a minute later after a cross from the left was headed out by Robson, and a second cross was nodded away by Eze, striker Jay Henderson drilled a shot through a forest of legs only to see it crack off a post and bounce to safety.
Henderson looked set to open his Queen’s Park account on 19 minutes when he raced clear of the home defence to reach a Boateng pass and drew Mark Ridgers from his goal. The attacker clipped a shot over Ridgers however the shot-stopper stuck up a hand to clear.
Eze confidently rose and headed away a corner midway through the opening half with Boateng’s attempts to release Henderson from the loose ball cut out by Daniel Devine at the last minute.
Fox was perfectly placed on 36 minutes to sweep away a Nathan Shaw cross from the left and the big centre-back’s interception helped set up an attack that saw Thomas create an opening for Josh McPake with the home defence doing well to block his effort.
As Queen’s continued to press Henderson worked the ball from his right foot to his left and curled a shot goalward from the edge of the box that Ridgers had to move sharply to save.
A hotly contested handball decision gave the visitors a free-kick 19 yards out five minutes from the break. With most people in the crowd expecting a deft effort from Savoury skipper Robson stepped up and sent a thumping effort goalward with Ridgers leaping high to produce a fine one-handed stop.
McPake had a low shot scooped up as the initial 45 minutes ended with both goals intact.
The visitors restarted brightly with a fine passing move releasing Thomas on the right with his low cross deflected to the edge of the box where Boateng was looking to return in into the danger area until it struck the foot of referee Graham and play was halted.
Robson was well-placed to clear up Inverness’ first attack of the second half after Shaw and David Carson had combined.
It did look like the Caledonian Stadium side would break the deadlock on 52 minutes when Aaron Doran ignored appeals for offside and ran through on Ferrie’s goal. The half-time substitute was about to skip his way past the shot-stopper and roll the ball into the net when he slipped and the Queen’s defence recovered possession.
Two minutes later it could have been a goal at the other end as Henderson won a duel with Devine and scampered forward with Ridgers using his legs this time to block.
Just after the hour mark Boateng looked to have released McPake with a piercing through ball however the ball skipped off the turf and went wide of goal.
Caley responded with a Henderson shot that flashed wide of Ferrie’s goal with home boss Dodds bringing on Lewis Hyde and Daniel Mackay for Scott Allardice and Shaw.
Coach Coyle made his first change of the evening on 69 minutes when Williamson replaced Henderson and a minute later Thomas was tripped some 30 yards out. The wide-man took the dead ball with Ridgers clutching and holding Thomas’ driven effort.
With the prospect of extra-time starting to be discussed by the crowd Devine headed a corner just wide however on 73 minutes a Queen’s goal was being discussed.
A Devine cross-field pass was allowed to roll unchecked into the path of THOMAS 25 yards out and he cut in from the right before unleashing a left footer that flew past a diving Ridgers and high into the net much to the delight of the ‘Black and White Hoops’ fans behind the goal.
A second was almost added quickly – twice- with Williamson seeing a curling shot saved before popping up at the back post and sending a header from a Davidson cross crashing against a post.
Queen’s almost surrendered an equaliser with ten minutes to go in unfortunate circumstances when an Eze header came off the back of Charlie Fox and dropped to Billy Mckay who brought out a fine save from Ferrie from his thumping drive.
Longridge and Boateng were booked in quick succession as Caley ramped up their efforts to get level however WILLIAMSON got his goal with six minutes left.
The number 19 won a personal battle of strength with Devine and that allowed him to dart towards the Caley goal where he slipped a shot past Ridgers.
In injury time Ferrie stopped a Carson effort to ensure that there was no way back into the tie for Caley.
Queen’s Park: Calum Ferrie, Jake Davidson (Alex Bannon 76′), Stephen Eze, Charlie Fox, Tommy Robson, Louis Longridge (Calum Biggar 89′), Malachi Boateng, Dom Thomas, Grant Savoury, Josh McPake, Euan Henderson (Scott Williamson 69′).
Subs not used: Jacques Heraghty (G/k), Lee Kilday, Aaron Healy.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle: Mark Ridgers, Wallace Duffy, Cameron Harper (Aaron Doran 46′), Sean Welsh, Danny Devine, David Carson, Billy McKay, Scott Allardice (Lewis Hyde 65′), Jay Henderson, Nathan Shaw (Daniel Mackay 65′), Zak Delaney.
Subs not used: Cameron Mackay (G/k), Steven Boyd, Matthew Strachan
Referee: Chris Graham