Caley Thistle’s Highland derby victory over Ross County on Tuesday brought back fond penalty shoot-out memories for goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.
A 21-year-old Ridgers played a major role in helping Second Division East Fife stun top-flight Aberdeen in a League Cup tie at Pittodrie in 2011, when he saved penalties from Rory Fallon, Josh Magennis and Chris Clark to secure a shoot-out victory following a 3-3 draw between the sides.
Then Dons boss Craig Brown, the former Scotland manager, described the match as “arguably the worst result of my managerial career.”
The Fifers were managed by current Caley Jags boss John Robertson, who signed Ridgers on loan from Hearts, and the Inverness-born goalkeeper says the triumph ranks highly among his career highlights.
Ridgers said: “It was probably one of the best things I have done in football. It was brilliant because at the time we were a League 1 club and they were in the Premiership and doing well.
“I saved the first two, and we scored the first two. At that point I just thought if we could score another two we would win the game. Aberdeen ended up scoring a couple though, and we missed and it went back level. We scored again though, and I saved the one to win the game.
“I always remember, I didn’t quite have an idea until I looked up after I saved it and saw the celebration. The next thing I knew there were bodies all over me. That night was terrific, but in terms of importance and who it was against, I think the other night comes close if not tops it.”
Former Scotland under-21 international Ridgers, who crucially thwarted Declan McManus’ spot-kick in Tuesday’s Scottish Cup last-16 tie at Caledonian Stadium, has now racked up three shoot-out victories under Robertson, who he credits for a productive spell at Bayview.
Ridgers added: “I was young and getting the opportunity to play. To be a part of that was fantastic.
“To have been with the manager there as well is quite a coincidence, because that’s now three shoot-outs we have had together and we haven’t lost one yet. We also had the one against Stirling Albion in the Betfred Cup last season.
“I think it’s a bit of a lucky thing, and hopefully if it goes to penalties again we are able to continue it. I think I have been involved in five penalty shoot-outs now and I haven’t lost any yet – so fingers crossed that continues right until the end of my career.
“In terms of experience for myself, it was a great learning curve and it gave me that boost I needed. Going back to Hearts and being part of the squad that won the Scottish Cup, it turned out to be a very good season for me personally.”
Caley Jags host Morton in the Championship today, with Ridgers hoping to feed off the euphoria of Tuesday’s derby win in pursuit of a top-four place.
The 28-year-old added: “It was a great result and it also eliminates that doubt that we can beat County.
“Hopefully it’s one that kick starts us, because thinking back to when we won the IRN-BRU Cup final last season, we went on a good run towards to end of the season. To be where we want to be at the end of the season we need that again.
“Hopefully that result gives all the players and everyone around the club a bit of belief we can go on a good run to try and get into the play-offs. We want to at least put some pressure on the teams above us.”