JUBILANT John Robertson admits his heart was in his mouth for Caley Thistle after a dismal penalty record this season – but long-distance practice made perfect.

The Caley Thistle manager had put his players through a series of 15-yard spot-kicks in preparation for the Highland derby climax that unfolded.

After Jordan White’s double twice hauled the hosts back into it, Robertson’s men booked a last eight spot with a 5-4 penalty kicks triumph.

And an emotionally wrung-out Robbo revealed: “We practised penalties yesterday and had the players taking them from 15 yards out.

“The thinking was to challenge them – if you can do that you can score from 12.

“All five of them scored so maybe something is in that, who knows?

“People say penalties is a lottery but I think it’s a skill – maybe that’s the striker in me – it’s a test of bottle and we showed plenty of that.

“Mark made a fantastic save for us and that’s what took us through. He’s big, he’s six foot five and if he goes the right way it’s a very small target.

“Thankfully for us he made a very good save. We felt we had the better of the game and the better chances.

“We have been horrendous at penalties this season, we have missed so many.

“It was another magnificent cup tie, all five games we have had this season have been magnificent

“There was even a bit of fisticuffs a the end there, so it was a game which had a bit of everything.

“It’s brilliant for our fans because we wanted to give them something.

“We haven’t been great at home at times this season so we wanted to put in a performance.”

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Robertson is thrilled to see his team through to an all-Championship showdown with Dundee United at Tannadice in early March.

He added: “County’s budget is double ours and they have quality, they are resilient and deserve to be top of the league.

“I told their players when they came off that if we can’t win the league then I hope they win it because it would be good for the area.

“This area needs a team in the Premiership.

“We have played well down at Tannadice in the past, we have won and drawn there. There is going to be a Championship club in the semi-finals.

“When you get to the last eight you have to believe you can go on and win it.

“There are photos here of the 2015 cup winning team and we see them every day, so we’d love to do it again.”

County co-boss Steve Ferguson said: “We’re obviously gutted to be out of the cup, but it’s always a lottery on penalties.

“I’m proud of what our players put into it.”