Billy McKay: Celebrates scoring the winner against Ross County
Billy McKay scored the winner as Inverness defeat Ross 2-1 in Dingwall to win the Highland derby.
Aaron Doran gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time – however Filip Kiss levelled the scores five minutes after the restart.
But McKay blasted in the winner to give Inverness their second Scottish Premiership win in Dingwall this year.
With the heat on John Hughes’ recently-criticised team, the visiting side produced a big result and performance.
Before kick-off, no fewer than 18 points separated top-six Inverness from their opponents in the bottom half.
Yet current form approaching the third and final north showdown of the Premiership season was an entirely different matter.
Hughes’ side had managed just one win in their last nine outings, while County – a much more potent force since New Year – were fresh from impressive draws with Aberdeen and Celtic.
But while County had triumphed 2-1 in Inverness on New Year’s Day, Hughes’ side had the psychological advantage of having trounced County 3-0 in Dingwall in late February’s re-scheduled tie.
On-loan Yann Songo’o flicked a header backwards just wide of his own goal, before at the other end a flicked Melvin De Leeuw header rolled just wide.
After 16 minutes Inverness top scorer Mckay drove low and hard, only to see keeper Marc Brown’s outstretched leg divert the ball for a corner.
County celebrations were cut short by the offside flag after 35 minutes.
Graham Carey’s free-kick sat up perfectly for Yoann Arquin and the big French striker thumped a header goalward. Songo’o intervened with a close-range volley to find the net – but he seemed to have sneaked just beyond the line before the ball was played.
A minute later, Caley Thistle’s Carl Tremarco became their third player to enter the book with a reckless lunge that sent Kiss tumbling, then writhing painfully on the ground.
Graeme Shinnie’s stringing strike was parried for a corner by Brown, then Arquin and de Leeuw combined for County before Greek left-back Evangelos Oikonomou cracked in a fierce attempt, but straight at Dean Brill.
Just before the break, Tansey’s 30-yard free-kick was parried by Brown but Mckay recovered the ball at the edge of the box and fed it back to Doran. The Irish winger’s response from an angle 30 yards out on the left was breathtaking as he sent the ball arcing into the far roof of the net.
County could hardly have asked for a better response early in the second period.
De Leeuw’s delivery from the left found defender Songo’o trying an overhead kick at the edge of the box but taking an air swipe.
It fell to Kiss and the on-loan Cardiff City man executed the chance brilliantly, angling a right foot shot into the corner of the net from 10 yards.
From the very next attack, David Raven’s ambitious effort from distance was only just touched over the bar by a desperately back-tracking Brown.
The visitors had a strong penalty claim waved away after 57 minutes when Kiss appeared to trip Watkins, with back to goal just inside the County box.
Carey drawing a fine parry by Brill low at his right hand post, before Shinnie was penalised just outside the box for landing a foot in the face of Kiss.
Mckay’s dramatic return to scoring form came when he netted at the second attempt after Scott Boyd had blocked his initial effort – seemingly with an
County came close to an equaliser as De Leeuw shot wide – but Mckay cracked the crossbar before the end.
When the dust had settled on a frenetic contest the visitors had eased pressure on boss John Hughes and kept alive faint European aspirations, while County remained just three points above the dreaded relegation play-off spot.