JOHN Robertson found Saturday’s late kick in the teeth from Dunfermline stirring painful memories of Hearts’ infamous title collapse of 1986.

But recollections of the day Albert Kidd’s double destroyed Tynecastle dreams are the very reason the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager is not ready to give up on the Championship play-offs.

Robertson was a 21-year-old emerging talent in the Hearts frontline as Alex MacDonald’s side – after a 31-game unbeaten run – went within seven minutes of glory, only to slump against Dundee and hand the title to Celtic

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Some 32 years on, he is old and wise enough to keep the agony of Nicky Clark’s stoppage-time 2-2 leveller for Dunfermline in calm perspective.

Only an Inverness win tonight and at Morton on Saturday, coupled with a Dumbarton win at East End Park, can now secure a play-off spot for the Highlanders. Robertson, however, knows from bitter experience just how football’s wicked twists can mess with presumptions.

Reflecting on Saturday’s 95th- minute sickener, he said: “Yes, it was a blow, no doubt about that. It is the famous footballing Gods, they giveth and taketh away. 

“We got a late winner against Dumbarton in the Irn-Bru Cup final and, cruelly, we lose a goal in a game we deserve to win.

“But if people think we’re giving up they have another thing coming. We’ve got to go to Livingston and win the game. Then, yes, we need a favour, but from a lad who lost the league title in 1986 with seven minutes to go, believe me, these miracles can happen.

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“Look, the ball is very much in Dunfermline’s court, we know that. If they do make it to the play-offs, we wish them the best of luck, as we do Livingston and Dundee United.

“But we cannot give up, and won’t give up. We’ll look to finish the season unbeaten and see where it takes us.

“It may be enough, two wins and you never know.”

Robertson admits he spent Saturday night down in the doldrums. True to character, though, he was back into work on Monday stirring belief in the dressing room.

The 53-year-old stressed: “As an experienced player and manager, you grow used to these things happening in football. That’s what makes it such a great game, the twists and turns of how football can fluctuate.

“The famous saying is ‘it only takes one second to score a goal’. On Saturday, Dunfermline got it.

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“Immediately after, I was gutted for the players and fans. We’ve put so much into it and could have kept it in our own hands. 

“To lose a goal in the 95th minute is just football. You deal with it. Most of Saturday night, I was still hugely down but, as I say, we’re not out of it yet.

“As a player, 1986 took a very long time to get over because you don’t often get a chance to win the Scottish Premier League title with a club like Hearts.

“But you move on and toughen yourself up. You’d imagine Dunfermline will get the point they require even if we win our two matches, but in football pressure can do strange things.”