Billy Mckay revelled in his return to Caledonian Stadium as a Ross County player for the first time – and the former Inverness Caley Thistle striker believes his old club will be among the title contenders come the end of the season.
Honours were even once more in the second Highland derby of the season following a pulsating 2-2 draw at Caledonian Stadium and Mckay, whose cross set up the unfortunate Brad McKay to score into his own net, was relieved to leave his old stomping ground with something to show for his efforts.
He said: “I played here before for Dundee United but this was my first derby here and it was great to play in but I’m glad not to leave with a defeat.
“There were a few ex-Caley Thistle players out there so I was in good company. I received a few boos but I think that’s because deep down they love me here.
“It’s well documented how many draws Caley Thistle have had and this is going to be one of the hardest places to come to this season.
“They are a good team and are on the cusp of changing things but I think even losing a game might help them break this run and get them going again. If they do that they will be right up with us.
“It was end to end, there were tackles, goals and the crowd was up for it but we are disappointed as we feel we can play better and should have taken the win.”
Mckay didn’t get on the scoresheet in the Highlands but he was left wondering how he failed to net following a stunning fingertip save from Inverness goalkeeper Mark Ridgers just before County’s equaliser in the first half.
Mckay also endured the wrath of the home support who felt he was offside for his side’s second goal – but he was quick to protest his innocence.
He said: “I’ve seen the video and I was onside. I took a bad touch and ended up going wider than I wanted to and didn’t think I could get a shot off. I managed to wriggle free and get a cross in but I didn’t even see it go in.
“It was a great time to score and get back in the game and I thought we were going to kick on but the second half was end-to-end and a draw was a fair result so we’ll take the point and move on.”
As for Ridgers’ save, Mckay added: “I thought, because the momentum had taken him the other way, the ball had gone past him and he has saved it from behind him. I haven’t seen it again but it must have been a great save.”
Following Saturday’s draw, Ayr United are three points clear at the top of the Championship.
County return to Victoria Park this weekend where another of Mckay’s former clubs, Dundee United, are the visitors to the Highlands on Saturday.
Mckay is wary of the improving Tangerines under new manager Robbie Neilson and knows his side face another testing afternoon in Dingwall.
United moved up to third at the weekend and can move to within a point of the Staggies if they can continue their revival by collecting all three points on Saturday.
The last meeting of the sides ended in a comprehensive win for County at Tannadice in what was Csaba Laszlo’s last game in charge.
Mckay knows the United players will want revenge and said: “United have picked up under a new manager and we’re on a good unbeaten run too. We know when they come up to our place next week they are going to be right up for it after what happened last time at Tannadice and we have to make sure we are right up for it too.”