Malky Mackay believes midfielder Scott Allardice has made a promising start in his efforts to grow into a Premiership player.
Allardice joined the Staggies in the summer, after spending three years with Highland rivals Caley Thistle.
Having been a standout performer in the Championship during that spell, the move over the Kessock Bridge gave the former Dundee United player a long-awaited crack at top-flight football.
Allardice was dealt an early blow however, after suffering a knee injury within 10 minutes of coming on as a substitute in the opening day loss to Celtic at Parkhead.
After missing nearly two months of action, Allardice made two substitute appearances on his return, before Mackay drafted him into his starting line-up for County’s last three matches.
The Staggies boss has been hugely encouraged by the 25-year-old’s impact so far, particularly after suffering a setback early in his County career.
Midfielder eager to grasp step up
Mackay said: “Scott was someone that, in the summer when we talked to him, really wanted a chance to prove himself in the top league.
“Clearly he was a very cultured player in the Championship, but he felt he wanted to really challenge himself to become a Premiership central midfielder.
“Initially he came in and I think the frenetic nature of the Premiership – it’s just a wee bit quicker, and players are just that little bit more consistent – took a bit of getting used to.
“He worked hard to get his fitness levels up to that point, but then he took a big knock at Celtic Park. It seemed innocuous at the time, but it turned out it wasn’t.
“It’s one of those ones that we were initially, privately, really worried. When it came back we weren’t sure how he was going to go, but bizarrely he recovered really quickly.
“He then needed a bit of time to catch up with everybody – he essentially did a mini pre-season again – and then it was about getting back up to match sharpness, so he played behind closed doors friendlies and North of Scotland Cup games.”
Allardice has more in the tank
Mackay believes Dundee-born Allardice has been County’s standout performer in the Dingwall side’s last two matches against Hibernian and Celtic.
In spite of that the Staggies boss feels Allardice, who previously had spells in Irish football with Bohemians and Waterford, still has further levels to reach.
He added: “Scott knows that he has to keep pushing and keep working on parts of his game, but I thought he was the best player on the pitch against Hibs.
“His reading of the game, more than anything else, was brilliant, and he showed a real maturity that I was really happy with.
“I thought Scott was our man of the match again on Saturday, he was magnificent and calm on the ball.
“It’s something that I’m going to keep pushing with him, because I think Scott still has another 20% left in the tank to go. He just needs to keep working on the little bits and pieces that might hamper him getting there.”