Ross County manager John Hughes has hailed the likes of Billy McKay and Celtic loanee Leo Hjelde after the Staggies’ vital 3-2 win over Kilmarnock.

McKay scored a double while Hjelde scored his first senior goal after replacing the injured Carl Tremarco 22 minutes in, moving County four points clear of bottom in the Scottish Premiership. Usually a centre-back, the 17-year-old operated on the left-side of defence and Hughes reckons he isn’t too many miles away Celtic first-team.

Celtic Training

The teenager has impressed since arriving from Celtic. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group via Getty Images)

He said: “Carl has hurt his hamstring, nightmare. But we had a good replacement in Leo. He came on and got his goal. It took him 10 minutes to get going but he knew what was required of him. He has a massive, massive future in front of him.

“He won’t be far off Celtic’s first-team when he goes back as this will do him the world of good, playing with men and training with men, getting battered about and coming back for more. He’s got more in the locker, a great left foot. But I am delighted for everyone.”

Two-goal hero McKay has been a substitute for 14 Premiership games this season, but on his 10th start, Hughes was thrilled: “He’s bitterly disappointed he’s not been playing football. I tried to press a few buttons with him the other day – I said I was struggling to get him in the squad.

SPL Scottish Premier League Headshots - Season 2020/21

Motivated McKay. (Photo by Ken Macpherson/MB Media/Getty Images)

“He said ‘all I want to do is play football’. Good, you’re playing. I don’t know if that was part of it. I know Billy and he’s got plenty to give. He wants to repay Ross County and like any player, he feels the frustration when he’s not playing. Do that and you’ll stay in the team every week.”

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