And as Mackay offered effusive praise for “the best team in the country” that eventually secured a 2-0 win with an 87th minute second goal, he also expressed pride in his own side’s efforts for pushing them all the way. That appeared to be owed to Celtic profligacy. But the County manager, who said his team will be “driving” forwards as they face four games in attempting to, at least, retain their current status of fifth place that would earn them a Conference League qualifying berth, had a different take.
“The [Celtic] crowd went quiet, and you could see the relief after the second goal,” he said. “At that point I was trying to move my team around the pitch and keep us pressing them. They are a good team – and on 70 minutes they brought the cavalry on as well [with Giorgos Giakoumakis, Tom Rogic and Liel Abada]. At the same time it’s a measure of where we have got. Come the split we were the fifth best team in the country, and that’s where we are at. We are now in a mini league with Motherwell and Dundee United who were both beaten at the weekend as well. Nothing changes, we will move on to next week against Hearts.
“We were playing against a really good team, they are league leaders. We stayed in the game until half-time and in the second half I asked us to be a bit more brave, in terms of playing higher, going man for man at the back and pressing them.
"We had a couple of half-chances, but anything you get you have to take it. The little bit of quality was just missing as far as that’s concerned. We ran them to the last couple of minutes, so in one sense I’m very proud we got to this point against the best team in the country. Up to the very last five minutes it seemed a very nervy occasion for their crowd, as we had the chance to nick one back.”