PETER GRANT saluted his players' battling qualities and determination to play after Dunfermline picked up their first clean sheet of the season on Saturday.

Although the stalemate with Championship pacesetters Inverness Caledonian Thistle still leaves them winless after five league matches, the Pars produced a much better performance for their under-pressure boss.

Scrutiny on Grant had intensified after the 3-1 loss at Ayr United - Athletic's third successive loss, each of which saw them concede three goals - as sections of the club's support voiced their frustrations.

There had even been suggestions that some of them would stage a protest during the game, which didn't appear to materialise, while Grant also scotched rumours of a fall-out with Dom Thomas in the build-up.

Thomas, who appeared as a second half substitute, and the 14 players who featured offered plenty of commitment against the Highlanders in a performance that saw them look much more organised defensively.

Nikolay Todorov, with a close range header (below), and Craig Wighton, when played in on goal in stoppage time, both had late chances to win all three points thwarted by Inverness goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.

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Whilst Grant admits there is plenty still to work on, he was keen to take positives away from the game post-match, and praised the attitude of his players.

"I've never questioned their fight, I must admit," he said.

"I think the biggest thing is when you lose goals the way we do, that obviously deflates you, and it's never given us a start. As I've said many times to you, I watch them through training. I know what they've got; I know the desire they have, I know the way they train, I know the commitment they have, and that's why sometimes on a Saturday it's been so surprising.

"But I know what it's like when you're not winning games or you lose a bad goal. It deflates you and you lose that little bit, then one becomes two, then you go up the pitch, which has happened to us, we've missed two or three fantastic chances, and you just feel sorry for yourself.

"I think today the boys kept battling away and battling away. As long as you don't lose silly goals, you've always got a chance to win it with the players that we have at our disposal, and I think that proved that today. I thought the substitutes came on and were excellent.

"I looked at the bench today, and I know we've had a couple of strange weeks with the boys with COVID, injuries and whatever, but I looked at the bench today and it was fantastic. Somebody like Ross Graham being left out the squad today, fully fit, and it was really difficult to do that. That's what we've tried to build when everybody's fit.

"I've got to give the players great credit for that because a few of them never trained at the start of the week, couldn't take part until Thursday, but I think it's easy when you're losing games in the way we have to leave yourself out and say I'm still feeling it a little bit.

"Everybody put their neck on the line to try and play today, and that showed me a lot before the game. I think it's an easy time to step down, but every one of them, to a man, wanted to be fit for the game and wanted to be selected.

"Hopefully that sets us in good stead. What we do now is try and turn the positive performance in the respect of a clean sheet. I believe we should've won the game - that's me personally, Billy maybe will have a different thought.

"A couple of things I felt just never went for us at important times but, as I say, effort, commitment, creating opportunities, should've scored, but defended really well and I was really pleased with that. A clean sheet, it's the first of the season, so hopefully we can kick on because you've got to work hard every single day in your life.

"If you don't work hard and you think you've cracked it, that's when it's got a habit of kicking you in the backside."

Referring to the previous week, Grant noted: "As I said to you, I thought there was a lot of good things last week.

"I know the result wasn't great, and the goals we conceded were really poor, but today I thought we dug in. We should've won won the game - I thought we had the best chances, there's no doubt in mind of that, we had the best chances in the game - but I've always said to the strikers yes, it would be fantastic if they scored, but it's so important they keep getting in there.

"I think every single game we've had two or three fantastic chances. I've got to give keepers great credit for saves they make, and positionally, because that's their job. Obviously a couple of bad misses and a bit unfortunate at times.

"But, as I say, clean sheet always gives you an opportunity to win a game and I thought Craig was just going to seal it for us. It would have been a perfect day if we'd done that because I thought we would've thoroughly deserved that against a very, very good side who have done exceptionally well this season."

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Inverness counterpart, Billy Dodds (above), felt a draw was a fair result and said it was a "good point" for his team.

The Highlanders, after five wins from five, dropped their first points of the season but remain top of the table, a point clear of Kilmarnock.

He also declared Athletic as one of the division's "best teams", commenting: "I thought both teams worked ever so hard.

"Probably a point was fair; maybe Peter would say his team should've nicked it, but I think my team had chances to nick it as well. I think if you're honest in your assessment, you look at that game, it was two, hard-working teams battling away. Brilliant work-rate and desire from both teams and although there were no goals, I think it was a good point.

"I know what's going on here, it's not my business, but I just knew there would be a reaction. I watched their game against Ayr last week and I thought they were extremely unlucky.

"They had real chances in the game, and then they made a mistake at the back and got punished as well. They weren't taking their chances, they had a lot of good football, got into good situations, and then they got punished at the back when they made their mistakes.

"I warned my players about that but my players gave me everything. Maybe not the technical side at times, but they're working their socks off and I thought it was a really well-deserved, hard-working point. It's the only way I can describe it.

"The header, it's a great chance. Nikolay, who I've worked with, will be disappointed he never scored it, but I'm disappointed (that) it was a great save from Fon Williams (from Robbie Deas in the first half), and then it hit off the full back's thigh when it was going in when Tom Walsh had the volley. We were unlucky there.

"Both teams had chances to win it. I think, if you're being fair, you'll say a point was fair as well.

"This is a tough place. I've been here before, I know what it's like. I know Dunfermline are bottom but I said that, anybody can beat anybody in this Championship, and Dunfermline are one of the best teams.

"This was tough, this was tough, and my players knew that. That's why they worked so hard.

"We had chances but they weren't as many as we created last week in the second half but, my word, we're working hard and it's a good point for us."