Ross County manager John Hughes feels on-loan Rangers midfielder Stephen Kelly has shown he has a massive future ahead of him.
Kelly netted an early own goal against Hamilton Accies last Wednesday but recovered strongly, with Hughes picking him out as the Staggies’ best player in their 2-1 victory.
The 20-year-old was also an impressive performer against Dundee United on Saturday, despite the Highlanders going down to a 2-0 defeat.
Kelly’s distribution statistics rank among the highest in Ross County’s side
Kelly’s importance to the Staggies was underlined by the respective distribution statistics, which show Kelly attempting more passes of any County player in both games.
Kelly’s total of 72 against Accies was all the more impressive given his 86.1% accuracy rate, while he was also County’s leading player in the total passes in the opposition half, total crosses, good crosses, good open cross and good passes and crosses categories.
Against Dundee United, Kelly once again attempted more passes than any of his team-mates (49), although his accuracy was down to 63.3%. Kelly was a close second behind Harry Paton with his total passes in the opposition half, as well as good passes and crosses. He was also behind only Jason Naismith in the total crosses count.
Having initially been forced to show patience before breaking into County’s side, Kelly has become a regular and has started all but three of the Staggies’ matches since Hughes took charge in December.
Kelly previously enjoyed a successful loan stint at Championship side Ayr United last season, however he feels the Scotland under-21 international is now proving his worth in the top-flight.
Hughes said: “It shows the character of the kid for a young boy to score an own goal it didn’t impact him.
“He still got himself on the ball and played the passes we asked him to play. He was as brave as a lion to get on it.
“That shows the type of boy he is and he has a massive career in front of him.
“He is a lovely kid and he trains so well, I can’t get him off the training pitch.
“He is in the indoor hall when we are finished he is the always the last one out.
“He is pinging balls with both feet, he works on his free-kicks.
“Stephen tries to get other guys involved as well, to try and improve himself.
“You have to just stand back and admire that.
“It shows in his game the way he passes the ball, his technique of passing.
“Everyone thinks these things just happen but trust me that’s not the case.
“He works so hard on his game. Against Hamilton he was probably our best player and I was really delighted with him.”
Hughes has also included Tony Andreu in his starting line-up for County’s last two games, having drafted the French midfielder in last month.
The Staggies boss previously worked with Andreu at Livingston, and he feels the 32-year-old can make a big contribution for the Staggies.
He added: “I know what he has in his locker. It was getting him up to speed but we didn’t want to ask too much of him. I was amazed when I looked at the running numbers against Hamilton and the distance he covered for someone who hasn’t played in a while.
“He actually got stronger towards the end and that’s all credit to him. He has looked after himself. He is someone who can play in a number of positions and he is a talented boy.
“He will have a big part to play until the end of the season. He is great about the place, he trains really well and intensity and I can see that rubbing off on other players.”
Another January addition, Mohamed Maouche, has yet to feature however Hughes is hopeful he could be involved against Hibernian on Saturday.
Former Oldham Athletic midfielder Maouche returned to France due to family circumstances shortly after joining the Staggies, however Hughes is excited by what he could bring to the Dingwall side.
He added: “Mohamed Maouche is ready to come back and he will be a big help.
“He is a player, he’s good on the ball and he can look after it. We did a lot of research on him, he obviously played his football down at Oldham.
“He will need to get up to speed, get used to the physicality here. He could be doing with an 11 v 11 situation in training.
“He will get there and I think he will be a big player for us over the next few months.”