Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell feels Ross Stewart is ready to show his true capabilities in the coming weeks following the attacker’s outstanding display in the Betfred Cup win over Celtic.
Stewart’s man of the match display helped Ross County run out 2-0 winners in a memorable triumph at Parkhead, with the striker netting a first-half penalty against the Hoops.
The goal took Stewart’s tally for the season to six in all competitions, although he has failed to score in the league since August.
Kettlewell has seen enough to suggest 24-year-old Stewart is approaching the standards which saw him linked with a move away from Ross County to numerous clubs during the summer.
Kettlewell said: “He was a handful for their defensive unit throughout. I think they struggled to cope with him any time we got a good ball into him.
“He has had two or three performances to a similar standard, but that puts his stock right up.
“That’s him back to where we know he can be as a player.
“Playing against that calibre of defender, I think he showed he’s more than a handful for anyone.
“We know Ross is a central striker. What he has done over the last period of time is get a lot of goals from the wide area.
“Everyone acknowledges he’s a number nine striker, we know that. Sometimes it comes down to that reliability, depending on what we’ve got to pick from with injuries.
“Sometimes he has played off that side, but we know he’s going to do a job wherever he plays.
“Confidence has probably been down a little bit of late after missing a few chances, but I think he came back with a bang with a performance like that.”
Kettlewell was equally pleased with the defensive display of fellow goalscorer Alex Iacovitti, with the Staggies boss adding: “For his years, at 23, he’s a born leader.
“He follows the instruction to the letter and we can see his commitment. He has been like that all season for us.
“He has probably been under the radar a little bit with some of his performances, but him like us has probably tailed off from that.
“I even asked him to play as a wing back when young Josh Reid came off the pitch, and I thought he was excellent there as well.”
The result piled the pressure on Celtic manager Neil Lennon, with the Hoops having now won just two of their last 10 matches in all competitions.
Kettlewell was thrilled with the way the Dingwall side embraced the task of unnerving their under-fire opponents, and he added: “It’s a strange situation because I have had to listen to it all myself this week as well. It’s part and parcel of the game.
“We spoke about the players going out to try and be image of myself as a player, how did I come out and play at places like this when you are up against it.
“Sometimes for us with our resources it’s putting your shoulder to the wheel and being a good team-mate and showing plenty of heart and plenty of spirit. That was the biggest factor in giving us a base to win the game.”