Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson believes Tony Watt can now make the most of his talent after reaching the required fitness levels.
Watt played a key role in Motherwell’s 4-0 win over Ross County on Saturday, attacking Nathan McGinley’s cross to net the first-half opener, winning the penalty that allowed Mark O’Hara to double the lead, and producing an excellent goal-line clearance to prevent Ross Stewart from halving the deficit.
Callum Lang soon put the game out of sight and Watt set up Devante Cole to net the fourth with a headed flick-on.
O’Hara was playing at centre-back as Robinson dealt with a defensive injury crisis that saw Bevis Mugabi, Liam Grimshaw and Ricki Lamie join the likes of Liam Donnelly, Jake Carroll and Charles Dunne on the sidelines.
But the dearth of defenders allowed him to revert to a 4-3-3 formation and get more forwards on the park, and they produced a clinical display.
Robinson said: “For me the outstanding performance, Mark O’Hara was asked to play in a position and deal with Ross Stewart and his physicality, and he did. He is an unsung hero – gets on with it – not given the credit he deserves.
“And Tony was unplayable. If he stays as fit as we have got him now, he’s a very good footballer.
“That’s the best all-round performance. When he came, he wasn’t fit enough. He told me he was. He told me he was fit enough pre-season. He wasn’t.
“And now we have finally – and I’m sure he’ll admit that – got him to the levels of fitness that allow his talent to shine.
“It’s now about keeping him in the team, keeping him fit, keeping him pushing himself.”
Robinson, who is awaiting news on goalkeeper Trevor Carson’s knee injury, added about Watt: “I’m pleased for him because he’s a good boy as well and he has bought into what we are doing. He’s a good asset for us.
“I think he has found a home, I think he feels welcomed and wanted and loved, and we push him and whip him at the same time.
“It’s up to Tony how far he wants to take his talent because he’s certainly a talented boy.
“We’ve got options, it was a difficult choice for me with the six or seven boys I’ve got up front. They have all trained really well. I have lots of options there and zero options at the back.”
County boss Stuart Kettlewell wants his team to have more belief going forward as well as cutting out the sloppy defending when they face Dundee United next weekend.
“I thought we had a lot of joy in the wide areas in particular,” he said. “I was just encouraging that bit more belief when we got in there to complete the act, whether it be a cross or a dribble inside the box, and I felt there was a little bit of apprehension and second-guessing ourselves in the final third.
“I thought if we could build on that in the second half there would have been a proper game out there.
“As such the scoreline reflects we have been miles behind. They have been clinical, more streetwise than us.”