NICK ROSS reckons his iconic semi-final strike against Hearts will be his Inverness legacy – and he would have it no other way.
However, the former Caley Jags hero admits he still has no idea how he found the net.
With a place in the League Cup final on the line in 2014, Inverness were down to nine men at Easter Road and trailing 2-1 as the clock ticked into the fifth minute of injury time.
However, Ross ghosted into the box to collect a James Vincent pass, managed to navigate some dreadful defending – Callum Paterson and Jamie Hamill crashed into each other – before somehow squeezing an effort through the body of Jamie MacDonald.
It sparked wild scenes of celebration among the fans who made the journey south and Inverness went on to triumph 4-2 on penalties.
John Hughes’ side lost out in the final against Aberdeen – however, that has done nothing to lessen the legend of that day in Leith.
Ross told Capital City Press: “It was a crazy game and one of those days that I will never forget. Inverness fans will stop me in the street or get in touch to ask me about the goal and talk me through their celebrations.
“Sometimes there will be a chat about famous last-minute goals, or the SPFL will put up a throwback tweet including that game and the floodgates just open. I still get so many messages about it.
“It might be the moment I’m most remembered for at Inverness – and that’s no bad thing. I’ll never get tired of reliving that one with them.
“It was one of my best ever memories from being at the club and up there with the most exciting games in Inverness’ history.
“I just remember James Vincent crossing it, I managed to take a good touch and then it was carnage in the box, bodies everywhere, two other boys tackled each other. In among all that, I swung a leg and – after watching it so many times – I still have no idea how it went in.
“I ran over to the crowd and people were falling from five rows up, spilling down to the front, climbing on top of each other – madness.
“It was a real shame we didn’t go on to win the final but that semi-final occasion will live forever.”
However, Ross did not have long to wait to get his hands on some silverware.
Inverness lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time in the club’s history in 2015, stunning Celtic in the semi-final before belying the dismissal of Carl Tremarco to see off Falkirk 2-1 in the Hampden showpiece.
He continued: “Walking around Inverness, there were posters with our faces in all the shops, we were visiting schools and getting good luck messages everywhere we went.
“As a boy from Inverness, it was an incredible place to be at the time. It’s hard to describe the experience of even the little things like getting measured for a suit; it’s not just another game.
After we won it, an open-top bus was organised and all the boys were thinking ‘oh, c’mon, who is going to come to that? Then the streets were packed.
“I really hope the current group – and the whole city – gets to experience that again.”
And Ross firmly believes that John Robertson’s Championship charges can revel in their underdog status against Hearts, just like Inverness did against the Hoops four years ago.
Speaking from his base in Texas, where Ross now plies his trade with El Paso Locomotive, he continued: “Hearts will be massive favourites and that can only work in Inverness’ favour.
“There will be so much pressure on Hearts; the Premiership club, with such a big following.
“When we played in the semi-final and final in 2015 and my only thought was ‘I don’t know when this will ever happen again – make the most of it’.
“Inverness have upset the odds throughout their history and I’ve no doubt that message will be getting made in the changing room by boys like Aaron Doran and Liam Polwarth who have been there and done it.
“There will absolutely be a belief that they can go through. And they can.”
Ross, however, will be forced to rely on a second-hand report from Hampden on Saturday.
He added: “It’s on a 5 a.m. here and we have a match against Phoenix, so I think the manager would kill me if I got up at that time to watch it!
“But I’ve got a group of mates going, so I’ll be phoning them up later in the day for a full match report. Although they’ll have been in the pub all day – hopefully celebrating – so that might be challenging.”