It is impossible to play down the depth of suffering experienced by Ross County supporters, so frequently on Highland derby day. The record-books remain testament to that.
How sweet, then, would Liam Boyce’s hat-trick have been to the Dingwall faithful, particularly those who have stoically stood in attendance throughout the last two decades. Pre-match, the all-time tally stood at 26 defeats for County from 51 tussles with their near-neighbours, easing marginally with a 13th County win.
For once – or, to be precise, for only the sixth time in Inverness since league admission in 1994 – those Staggie supporters left the Highland capital in joyous mood.
Liam Boyce, the Northern Ireland striker, lit up the occasion with a wonderful hat-trick, leaving Inverness locked in bottom place early in Richie Foran’s new managerial reign.
Manager Jim McIntyre described Boyce’s brilliantly-taken second goal as “fit to grace any league in the world” but the County matchwinner was just pleased to turn the tables on that derby misery after a poor start to the campaign.
“The only time we beat Caley Thistle last year was in the cup, with three defeats, so it is just good to get one over them and get us up and running in the league,” Boyce said.
The Staggies had also suffered the embarrassment of having their League Cup silverware parade rained on by Inverness last time out in March, after a 3-0 defeat in Dingwall.
There was a real sense of urgency as the visiting team came tearing out of the traps. County were in front when Craig Curran’s diagonal ball into the home box from the left found striker Boyce completely unmarked on the six-yard line for a simple header.
County missed a great chance after 18 minutes after Owain Fon Williams strayed out of his box to palm away a high ball forward from Andrew Davies. Martin Woods struck over the bar with the net empty.
But Inverness suffered a big setback as defender Kevin McNaughton exited with an Achilles injury after only 24 minutes.
And with the hosts still temporarily down to ten men, the second arrived for County after 27 minutes – and it proved a moment of true class from Boyce.
A pin-point ball forward from deep right by Richard Foster did the damage. But Boyce’s control at the far side of the penalty area was exquisite as he dragged the high ball inside David Raven and whipped a right foot shot low past Fon Williams.
The game erupted in controversy on half-time as Caley Thistle clawed their way back into it.
Ross Draper’s high ball forward had Davies challenging Scott Boden, with the ball squirming past Fox from 12 yards. Video re-runs suggested it was an own goal from Davies.
But there was furore with County claiming they had already halted play after referee Dallas blew his whistle for off-side. After consultation between Dallas and his linesman, the goal stood.
The dispute seemed academic when County restored the two-goal margin a couple of minutes after the break.
A Chris Routis free-kick launched forward from the left, midway into home territory, again found the hosts vulnerable as Boyce completed his hat-trick at the far post, out-leaping Gary Warren to head home.
A fine Ross Draper volley slashed the advantage again after 65 minutes from the edge of the area, but County held out.
“If you want something more in life you’ll get it. They wanted it more than us in the first half, which is disappointing,” a deflated home manager, Richie Foran, admitted.
“But I’ve got the characters in there to put things right.”
It was an honest and accurate assessment on both fronts.