Ross County co-manager Steven Ferguson believes Caley Thistle have saved their best for the Highland derby this season and expects it to be no different for the final meeting of the sides this season tonight.
The Staggies head for Caledonian Stadium with an 11 point lead at the top of the Championship but the meetings with Inverness have been huge tests for the Dingwall outfit this season with only one of the previous five meetings this season – at Victoria Park in December, decided in 90 minutes with the home side coming out on top.
Inverness have one victory to their name too, a penalty shoot-out success in the Scottish Cup fifth-round last month at Caledonian Stadium, and Ferguson expects another testing night at the home of Caley Jags tonight.
He said: “We see the best of Inverness every time we play them and we know how good a side they are.
“Like us, winning games is a good habit to get into and they have a trip to Hampden to look forward to and the possibility of getting to a final. That will give them a lift and we know it will be a tough game.”
County bring back some key personnel for the trip across the Kessock Bridge with striker Ross Stewart and former Inverness midfielder Ross Draper both set to return while Sean Kelly is also available again after injury.
Ferguson said: “We’ve got good options for the game. We’re on the back of six straight league wins which is pleasing and having those guys back gives us additional options.
“We have a group of players so we are able to deal with the injuries we have had and I cannot stress enough the importance of the group and the fact everyone has a role to play.
“We have a headache but one we all want. We would rather have more options than none at all.”
Caley Thistle received a boost on the eve of the final derby of the campaign when 17-year-old winger Daniel MacKay put pen to paper on a new three-year deal.
The deal keeps MacKay, who is currently sidelined by a knee injury, at the club until the summer of 2022.
Inverness boss John Robertson is delighted to have secured the teenager, who burst onto the scene last season, on a new deal and hopes the new deal will encourage members of the youth team to try to force their way into the first team squad.
Robertson said: “Negotiations kicked in after he made his 25th appearance and he has made 26 now.
“We negotiated with his parents and his agent and we’re delighted he will continue to play his football in the Highlands.
“It’s been an unlucky season for Daniel as he has suffered from niggling injuries and he nursing a strain in his medial ligament in his knee at the moment but we hope he will continue to kick on as he is a tremendous prospect for the future.
“What we have got in place now is incentivised contracts for the young players and when they hit a certain amount of games their contract is ripped up and they go on to a higher wage and higher incentive because we want them to play in our first team.
“The quicker they hit those milestones the quicker they are rewarded and we are hopeful maybe five or six even seven can go on to reach that stage.”