Ross County’s Michael Gardyne blasted Caley Thistle defender Brad McKay as a “coward” after a late brawl in Tuesday’s Highland derby.
Gardyne and McKay clashed in the closing stages of extra-time, which prompted players from both sides to wade in to intervene.
The scores were level at 2-2 and heading for penalties, with Gardyne reckoning he “schooled” McKay over both Scottish Cup ties.
Caley Thistle eventually emerged victorious from Tuesday’s encounter, winning 5-4 in a penalty shootout and sealing their first triumph over their neighbours since March 2016.
Gardyne, who scored the Staggies’ second goal and netted from the penalty spot, had some choice words for his direct opponent after their late skirmish.
He said: “I’ve schooled him for two games so I don’t really need to say anything to him. He’s went over the top of the ball and I’ve won the ball. It’s a coward’s tackle from him. There’s no need for it, then he wants to fight everybody. But fair play to them. They’ve gone through and we wish them all the best in the next round.”
Three of the four derbies this season had ended in draws, with County winning at the end of December in Dingwall. Tuesday’s goal was Gardyne’s eighth against Inverness, while Ross Stewart has now bagged three this season against their Highland rivals.
With an IRN-BRU Cup final to come against Connah’s Quay Nomads and a title race in the Championship, Gardyne is confident this week’s disappointment will not derail their ambitions for the remainder of the campaign.
He said: “We went ahead twice in the game and should probably do better when we’re 2-1 up but they played well. They only ever play well against us – so fair play to them. It is what it is.
“We saw in the dressing room after the game that everybody was knackered. But it’s an important couple of days so we need to pick ourselves up and go again at the weekend. We’re in a cup final, we’re still fighting in the title race. We’re up there, we just need to make sure that we go again.
“The result won’t (knock County off course). We’ve got a great bunch of lads and we seen that in the dressing room after the game. That’s what we were all talking about. We’ve got plenty left to play for – not what we’ve lost.”