ON the morning of the Highland derby, it will surely unnerve Ross County to know that Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Billy McKay is desperate to satisfy his goal craving after a pair of frustrating afternoons against Partick Thistle and Celtic.
All eyes will be on McKay in what stands as the first Highlands derby of the season after the clash in October was abandoned due to a power failure. McKay is also ruing a slight interruption to what has been steady service from him this season, after 17 goals in 21 appearances.
Two games without a goal is hardly a famine, and he played the majority of his last appearance, against Celtic, as a lone striker against an in-form defence.
However, underlining just how prolific McKay has been this season, he does not often go a third game without finding the net. Indeed, it has happened only once before this season, when he endured a five-match barren streak in October.
Like many strikers, McKay is wary of publicly setting targets for himself. “If you don’t reach it you will be disappointed,” he explained. “I take each game as it comes and try to score in every game. I have not scored in two now, so I go into the next game really wanting to score.”
That could be bad news for Derek Adams’ struggling County side. McKay struck three times against Inverness’s rivals last season and is now looking to return to scoring form on a day when clubs are permitted to start making official enquiries for the striker, who is reported to have been valued at £1 million by his club. Both chairman Kenny Cameron and newly installed manager John Hughes have insisted they have no desire to sell McKay, with Peterborough and Burnley among several English clubs credited with having an interest in Scotland’s top goalscorer.
“The chairman has come out and said they don’t want to sell me and the manager has said that as well,” said McKay.
“It is up to them. If they don’t want to sell me what can I do? I am signed on for 18 months and I am very happy here.
“The chairman does not want to sell me and he is trying to warn people off with that price tag. I will just keep playing my football and trying to score goals.
“I have not let it affect me. I had the same sort of thing last December. I just carry on playing my football and trying to score goals for Inverness.
“Coming up here has really helped my career progress, especially getting international recognition as well,” he added, having made the breakthrough into the Northern Ireland side earlier this season.
“I am very happy here, and I have been happy here since the first four or five months. I was not playing then and I did not enjoy it. As soon as I got into the team I have been happy for the last two years.”
Meanwhile, Hughes is relishing the thought of his first Highland derby and knows there will be no better time to clinch a first home win since being named as Terry Butcher’s successor in December.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “In this league everyone is capable of beating each other. But we will be well prepared.”
Although his predecessor shared a sometimes-fiery relationship with his opposite man in the County dug-out, Hughes has been told that the fixture is defined by its friendliness.
This is not something he is used to, having taken part in many derbies, including Hibs against Hearts and Celtic versus Rangers, as well as Kilmarnock/Ayr United clashes and even Swansea against Cardiff City.
Hughes said: “I have been asking one or two of the supporters and they tell me this one is a friendly derby. It is passionate but it is friendly.”