THEY are two clubs separated by 160 miles of A9 carriageway, but John Robertson will view the clash between Inverness Caley Thistle and Livingston as almost like a derby match in nature.

A tradition of fierce confrontation across every one of Scotland’s four divisions created an ingrained rivalry that provides the backdrop for the rekindling of old hostilities today at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

For Robertson, who played and coached at Almondvale for four years before returning to become manager there in 2006/07, the meeting certainly provides a wee trip down memory lane.

Among many great battles, Robertson remembers an epic encounter in season 1998/99 when the rivals fought tooth-and-nail for the old Scottish Division Two title.

With veteran Robertson a late substitute, Livingston stormed 4-0 up inside 23 minutes against Steve Paterson’s men only to be pegged back dramatically by goals from Mark McCulloch, Charlie Christie and Iain Stewart.

The former Hearts forward said: “I've got first-hand knowledge of the depth of rivalry from the Livingston end. There was a titanic battle for the Second Division title which went to a see-saw game at Almondvale.

“In the Championship, both teams were playing each other. Livingston got to the Premiership and Inverness followed them.

“So while it isn’t a derby game for two clubs so far apart geographically, they share a lot of past history.

“It's a rivalry that has seen them fight for titles all the way through. Both clubs have had halcyon days in the Premiership and, unfortunately, now find themselves in the Championship.

“But there's been some entertaining games over the years and I'm sure Saturday will be the same.”

Robertson is heartened by much of the football Caley Thistle have been producing lately, but knows the tendency to shoot themselves in the foot defensively must end.

He stressed: “We feel, as a team, we're improving. Some of our attacking play of late has been excellent, but we have to defend better to pick up the results our play deserves.

"Our Achilles’ heel is that if we score goals, we concede goals. We've been working hard on our shape because we face a side full of confidence this weekend.

“They've only lost once all season to St Mirren. They're in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, so that shows their quality.

"They make it a fight all over the park and they're a very difficult team to play against.”

Robertson’s belief is that no single team will dominate in the Championship this season, a measure of the level of competitiveness within the division that is both challenging and ripe with opportunity.

He said: “We've got no divine right to think we've got a run that's easy on us, but we know we can get ourselves in the pack. If we put a run of wins together we can give ourselves an opportunity.

“I don't see anyone running away with the title this year. The first 18 matches are like the Grand National. You're vying for position and to get results and when it comes to the final run-in, we have to be there or thereabouts. You don't want to be chasing.

“We know we have to get results and put a run of games together so that, come January or February, there is an opportunity in the run-in to affect the top of the table.”