True to form, the latest and in all possibility final Highland derby of the season will be even bigger than the one which came before tomorrow evening.
Caley Thistle may have taken the bragging rights when they emerged victorious in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the last meeting of the sides a few weeks ago but in the league it is Ross County who hold the upper hand, albeit by virtue of their 2-1 win on December 29 at Victoria Park with the two previous meetings ended in draws.
It is hard to argue against the notion Caley Thistle’s need is greater tomorrow than that of the league leaders.
The Staggies, after all, head across the Kessock Bridge with a hugely comfortable 11 point lead at the top of the Championship. County also boast one advantage their hosts do not –
Few teams could cope without the loss of key personnel but the Staggies seem to have taken it all in their stride this term with the loss of Billy Mckay being absorbed by the goals of Brian Graham who seems to be relishing his new-found responsibility as the main man up front.
County will want to win of course but there is unlikely to be too much disappointment in the camp if they head home afterwards with another point to show for their efforts.
Inverness do not have that luxury and frankly another draw is the last thing John Robertson and his players want at this stage of the season.
With 12 draws in 27 league matches so far it is not hard to see what the main factor in Inverness being just off a play-off place is.
Robertson’s team remain notoriously hard to beat, having lost just six games in the Championship – a record bettered only by tomorrow’s visitors to Caledonian Stadium.
Tomorrow will be the sixth meeting of the teams this season and the head-to-head record shows just how little there is between the teams with County’s home win in December the only occasion where a winner has been found in 90 minutes.
What Inverness can draw on, apart from the cup replay win last month, is the fact they have played some of their best football in the derby and can consider themselves hugely unfortunate not to have a league win for their efforts so far.
Tomorrow would be a welcome time to put that right but County have their eye on the prize as we enter the home straight of the campaign.
They have won six in a row and County’s march towards the title has been relentless since the turn of the year.
The 4-0 defeat at Queen of the South was a watershed day for the club and their response to that loss has been near perfect.
There will be no easing up, nothing taken for granted, Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson have made sure of that. The last thing County want is to offer the chasing pack a glimmer of hope.
It also gives the neutral something to savour and with so much at stake for both clubs the final Highland derby of 2018-19 promises to be yet another classic.