BILLY McKay admits Inverness Caledonian Thistle have no option but to pick themselves up and make sure they are ready to face local rivals Ross County this weekend as they aim to secure European football for the first time in their history.
Caley Thistle blew the chance to clinch third spot in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League on Saturday when they suffered a last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Dundee United.
Defeat for fellow Euro rivals St Johnstone at Celtic earlier in the day meant a win over United would have been enough to claim the final Europa League berth.
Terry Butcher’s men remain in the driving seat but the loss means the fight for continental football next term will go to the wire, with Inverness now needing to produce the goods in a Highland derby on the last day.
McKay said: “It’s still in our hands and we have to go again next week. We have to go to Ross County looking for the win that will get us into Europe. We’ve just got to deal with it and get on with it and go there looking for the result.”
McKay failed to convert from the penalty spot for the second week in a row, before Aaron Doran fired Inverness into the lead just before half-time with a low drive.
United were back on level terms shortly after the restart when Ryan Dow caught Jon Daly’s knock down with an impressive volley, before Gary Mackay-Steven struck in injury time after the home side committed men forward. With just seconds of the match remaining, Stuart Armstrong broke down the right wing and crossed to the back post, where Mackay-Steven fired into the net in emphatic style.
On his penalty miss, McKay said: “I was confident and I thought I struck it well and the keeper made a good save.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t put it away but we went in the lead and thought we were going to win the game, which we didn’t.
“We were by far the better team and we just didn’t take our chances. At 1-0 we were confident we were going to get the win and to lose a goal early in the second half was disappointing.
“I still thought we were the stronger team and we pushed on late in the game but we were done on the break and it lost us the game.”
United were already out of the race for European football but, having failed to register a win since the league split, Mackay-Steven insists they still had plenty of incentives to win the match.
He said: “It was really important to get the win. In the last few games, we haven’t really performed as well as we know we can do.
“We haven’t picked up a lot of points so it was important for us to get the three points in this game.
“We kept plugging away and thankfully we got the winner in the end.
“We have got character in the team and a never-say-die attitude.”