FILIP Kiss is not just proving a headline-writer’s dream. The 23-year-old midfielder is shaping up as a manager’s wish-come-true, too, after swapping life in the shadows at Cardiff City for an already productive loan spell in the Highlands.
Scorers: Ross County - Kiss (42, 74), Arquin (69)
The former Slovakia under-21s captain claimed two superb goals – one truly breathtaking – as Ross County hurtled on into 2014 a team transformed. Kiss, who now has four in two games to his name, was one of six January signings fielded by manager Derek Adams and stamped his mark all over an ultimately beaten and bedraggled Dundee United.
It was the killer third goal of the day, though, that really underscored his class.
“If I’m honest, that was the best goal I’ve ever scored,” Kiss, pictured, admitted. “If you take into account the distance and quality of shot then it was the best goal of my life.”
The Kiss performance was just one of many positives for manager Derek Adams, as County leapfrogged Partick into tenth position.
United’s season has taken exactly the opposite turn, and they are now without a win in six games.
While two of their number, Ryan Gauld and John Souttar, were packed off for a rest in the Spanish sunshine, the remaining players looked jaded against re-energised County.
Jordan Slew, County’s loan addition from Blackburn Rovers, was again immense in his strength and control. There was also a debut goal for Yoann Arquin, snapped up from Notts County on a year’s deal. The 22-year-old Yann Songo’o, a Cameroonian centre half secured on loan from Blackburn Rovers, was unveiled only on the morning of the match, but also slotted soundly in beside Brian McLean.
Farid El Alagui made his first start for United after a substitute contribution in Inverness, while Stuart Armstrong surprisingly dropped to the bench.
United were initially menacing but County soon settled.
It took a terrific Calum Butcher saving tackle to thwart Slew as he foraged into the box.
County had several dead ball opportunities, with both Graham Carey and Richard Brittain testing Radoslaw Cierzniak with strikes under his bar.
But the hosts noticeably raised the tempo midway through the first half, with a sustained spell of pressure.
Amid it all, Carey’s fine cross from the left found Slew striking on the volley, with Radoslaw Cierzniak pulling off a great reaction save.
Four minutes before the break, though, Carey’s persistence paid off handsomely. Another perfectly-measured delivery from the left found Kiss, pictured, arriving to head high past Cierzniak.
As the second half opened, Gary Mackay-Steven caused a brief flutter for County but, mostly, the tide was in Tangerine faces.
County were soon home and dry. After 67 minutes, Slew produced an explosive surge on the left, cutting inside and striking hard at goal. New signing Arquin chested the ball into the back of the net for a dream start to his career in Scotland.
Adams’ side then sealed it when Kiss produced his moment of magic with a sublime strike from fully 30 yards. There was no way back for McNamara’s men.
“We looked soft at the back and they dominated us. I thought we could have handled it better,” McNamara said. “We started well enough but lost our discipline after the first goal. “It’s little things that cost you. The shape when we lost the first goal for example. If you don’t defend properly you put yourself under pressure.
“When we went on our good run we were keeping clean sheets and had the best defensive record along with Celtic. Since we’ve gone on this bad run we’ve lost a few goals - and you see the confidence going.
“It’s about getting back to basics and making sure we’re dominant at the back and not getting bullied.”