IAIN Flannigan glanced up as an innocuous looking clearance was spooned into the air by an Inverness Caley Thistle defender midway through the first half. He barely broke stride as he leapt up, swivelled, and flicked the ball through the legs of a bemused man in blue and into the path of the onrushing Adam Brown. 

In a sport increasingly dedicated to quickness, power and athleticism above all, Flannigan has always possessed an uncanny speed of thought. Even if he might lag behind team-mates Kevin O’Hara or Kevin Cawley in miles per hour on the pitch, he’s always found a way to influence games with the flick of a foot, bringing clarity to the Wasps’ attacking play. 

In a strangely subdued Scottish Cup tie against their Championship rivals, Flannigan’s performance was a shining light and a genuine buzz of excitement whenever the ball found its way into his stride. 

The stand-in captain is not only one of the league’s finest players but he is often the envy of opposition fans and managers for the class he brings to the pitch. 

Brown’s effort, a drive from the edge of the box, was well-held by Mark Ridgers and, in truth, it was a sign of things to come as Alloa’s dreams of creating Scottish Cup history ended at the first major hurdle. 

The Wasps could rightly feel aggrieved as an encouraging performance - where Flannigan’s class was matched by many in black and gold - was undone by three fatal slips at the back. Against a team of Inverness’ quality, mistakes rarely go unpunished and an unfortunate Jon Robertson slip and lack of concentration from two corners were duly given the treatment by Aaron Doran, Jordan White, and finally Charlie Trafford. 

Perhaps the only small crumb of comfort for the despondent Wee County faithful is that the Scottish Cup was only ever going to be a distraction in their fight to stay in Scotland’s second-tier. In the grand scheme of things, Tuesday’s rearranged clash against fellow part-timers Arbroath is far more important to how the end of season mood will be when the squad heads for the sunshine. 

What they know they can’t afford to do is start as poorly as they did here, when a hopeful cross from the right found the feet of Doran inside the first ten-minutes. The winger couldn’t believe his luck when he jinked past Robertson, who had lost his footing and was on the turf, and fired into the roof of Jamie MacDonald’s net. 

The tiny band of Inverness fans, who had braved the trip down the A9, engulfed the railway end with smoke from a flare and some were quickly sent packing by the stewards - all the more shame for them as they ended up missing a cup tie which, while never quite thrilling, was always enthralling. 

No sooner had Doran found the net than the increasingly influential O’Hara was grabbing the match by the scruff of the neck and dragging Alloa back into contention. His desire to chase down a lost cause heralded a corner and he had barely stopped running when he darted to the front post to nod home Stevie Hetherington’s delicious delivery. 

Flannigan oozed class and he showed a lovely cunning to glide away from the clutches of an Inverness defender, cut inside and flash a shot just beyond the post.

He wasn’t the only veteran of these parts to delight and Liam Buchanan breezed into the Caley Thistle box, flicked the ball into the path of Brown, who twisted his way into space, only for Ridgers to somehow deny him by clawing his goal bound shot off the line. 

The Wasps were well on top now and time stood still when Robbie Deas kneed a Hetherington ball agonisingly beyond Ridgers’ post - a firmer connection and it’s likely he would have found the back of the net. 

But, for all of their smoothness on the ball, Alloa were soon to be undone by a couple of Inverness behemoths who took full advantage of the Andy Graham shaped hole at the back. White was the first to benefit from a touch of Wee County generosity when he rose tallest to power a header beyond the grasp of MacDonald. 

With only half an hour to go, that could have so easily been that and few would have begrudged the Wasps for turning their attention to Tuesday’s game. 

The introduction of Lee Connelly - who in his 30 minute cameo showed more than enough to suggest he can bring an injection of flair to the Alloa ranks - was a sign Peter Grant believed his side could still progress and the youngster wasted little time in endearing himself to Clacks. 

The winger's remarkable poise opened up some space, before he found the lurking O’Hara with a sublime cross the on-form striker was only too happy to volley into the net. 

A draw would have been a fair result - albeit, an extra game would hardly have been the most welcome outcome - but Alloa’s defence couldn’t hold out and once again they were simply outdone by the physicality of their guests when Trafford nodded home a last-gasp winner.