INVERNESS midfielder Nick Ross believes that the Highlanders can create history by qualifying for Europe for the first time since they were admitted to the senior game in 1994 – but only if they can hold on to leading goalscorer Billy McKay during the current transfer window.
The Northern Ireland striker, who scored two superb goals as ten-man Caley Thistle came from behind to win and move into third place, becomes a free agent this summer and the club could cash in on him this month.
According to Ross, however, that would be a false economy.
“Billy’s first goal was something else,” he said. “It reminded me of that Matt Le Tissier goal.
“He flicked it over the defender and you think he’s going to hit it on the volley but he just waited for the finish.
“At the second one, I could have been in to score but I took a bad touch. I got a bit fortunate but I knew that Billy would finish it off if I gave it to him. And he did.
“He’s a really important player for us and probably the only out-and-out striker we have at the moment. If we can keep him fit and scoring goals then we’ll be all right.
“Transfer window speculation is always there. We have a few boys who seem to be attracting attention and quite rightly because we’re playing well. We want to keep everyone we can and see how far we get this season.
“Can we push for Europe? I think so. The manager says to us that we don’t know how good we can be.
“We are not looking too far ahead because we know there are a lot of teams all scrapping in there. But we know we have the quality to do it.”
Kilmarnock, demonstrably, do not. Even after taking the lead from an Alexei Eremenko penalty, which saw Inverness full-back David Raven sent off for bringing down Josh Magennis, they failed to press home their advantage.
They have won only two of their last 12 games and this was their ninth defeat during that sorry sequence, prompting calls from the home support for manager Allan Johnston to resign.
That will not happen and, according to Magennis, who missed a sitter which could have put the game beyond the visitors, nor should it.
“We blew it: it is completely our fault,” he said. “He sets out the team, but when we cross the white line, it is up to us. When you are not doing it at a football club, it’s always the manager who gets the stick because people think it is all down to him. But he gave us our instructions, we were drilled from Monday to Friday and told what to do: we just didn’t take it on board. We didn’t do the manager or Gary Locke any justice.”
While that Magennis miss was the pivotal moment of the game, Johnston’s decision to withdraw Finnish playmaker Eremenko in the 70th minute was almost as crucial.
“I was looking to freshen things up,” said Johnston. “I was trying to get a bit more legs in the team.
“But, looking back, you always assess your decision to see if it was the right one. We probably needed that bit of experience and quality in the last 20 minutes so it was probably the wrong decision to take him off.”