JASON Naismith insists Ross County’s precious point earned against Celtic will have been an unexpected blow their their bottom six rivals in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The Dingwall side battled back against the Scottish champions on Sunday for a 2-2 draw, with sparks flying in the closing moments.
County forward Alex Schalk won his side a spot-kick by taking a dive, which Liam Boyce scored, then Celtic captain Scott Brown was sent off at the death for a reckless challenge on Boyce.
Kieran Tierney fired Celtic in front with a thunderbolt of a strike in the first half, but Michael Gardyne levelled just after the break with a crashing header beyond keeper Craig Gordon.
Sub Patrick Roberts weaving run and shot made it 2-1 for the Hoops before the late penalty drama and Brown flashpoint.
With Hamilton and Motherwell winning on Saturday, the result against a Celtic team unbeaten in 40 domestic games this season keeps County tucked two points behind seventh-placed Kilmarnock and three ahead of 11th-placed Well.
Defender Naismith, a January capture from St Mirren, explained that gaining a point against Celtic is a massive boost ahead of next Friday’s crucial Highland derby against an ICT side five points afloat at the foot of the table.
This draw came on the back of a win over Dundee and 1-1 draw at Hamilton and Naismith told the North Star: "It was a scrap near the end on Sunday, but it shows we are also up for the fight.
"We all tried to back one another up, but for the penalty Boycey showed great composure and I always believed that he was going to score. It has got us a point, which could be vital come the end of the season.
"The other sides in the bottom six would have looked at us going in against Celtic and expected us not to get anything from it. They way Celtic have been playing, folk would think we’d have come out with a minus five goal difference from that one, so that’s a big point for us."
The 22-year-old knows derbies look set to be lost next season as ICT teeter on the brink of relegation, but he insists that cannot be County’s concern next Friday.
He stressed: "The Inverness game is massive for us and we need a win from that. The gaffer will have us working hard before then. We know what the derby means to people, but we are not safe yet either, so we need the points.
"It’s important for the Highlands, of course, to have both clubs in the Premiership, but first and foremost we need to just worry about Ross County to make sure we are number one in the Highlands by winning the game."