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Ross County 1 Kilmarnock 2: Slater rising to challenge on way to top

WITH a 6ft 6in team-mate making his debut, it is fair to say young Craig Slater needed a big performance to hog the spotlight.

It took quite something to set Michael Ngoo in the shade on his Kilmarnock debut.

Slater is 20 and another of those blossoming Scottish talents sure to be attracting the attention of Gordon Strachan soon and, if Allan Johnston's fears are accurate, bigger clubs beyond Ayrshire.

Ngoo did well enough after signing a two-year deal following his departure from Liverpool, but the impact of others was more telling. Slater with his creativity and the strength and menace of goalscorer Josh Magennis and the matchwinner Tope Obadeyi.

Johnston, though, singled out Scotland under-21 international Slater for special mention and admitted he fears losing the young player after another dazzling show in Dingwall.

"Some of the delivery from the wide areas was different class," Johnston said. "Ross Barbour put in a lot of good crosses and Tope Obadeyi did as well but young Craig Slater stole the show. With the range of passing he showed today you can see he is not going to be with Kilmarnock for very long. Last year, I was saying the same - he is a top young player."

Following defeats at the hands of St Johnstone and Partick Thistle, County needed a positive result and, initially, they seemed to warm to the task.

After an early Yoann Arquin strike was deflected over, Graham Carey went close with a right-footed shot and the visitors looked rattled for a spell.

Towards half-time, though, Kilmarnock announced their arrival as Antonio Reguero was beaten after 39 minutes. Slater's free-kick from the left was cleared but returned to him and the youngster's cross was perfect for Magennis to head in.

Jake Jervis squandered a great chance for County just after the break, miscontrolling a Jordi Balk cross into Craig Samson's arms and it proved costly for the Highlanders as Kilmarnock went 2-0 up after 56 minutes.

It was painfully simple for Obadeyi as he glanced in Barbour's cross with County's defence posted missing.

The Highlanders did strike, finally, through Liam Boyce, but it proved too little, too late. The former Cliftonville and Werder Bremen striker sprang from the bench after 72 minutes and was to make his mark nine minutes later with a close-range header from Joe Cardle's excellent cross.

"We might have scored before they did - but that's been the story of our season so far," said County manager Derek Adams. "We had good chances to score and controlled, I thought, the first 35 minutes. We could definitely have done more in the last 10 or 15 minutes."

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