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Ross County manager Malky Mackay hailed the performance of 16-year-old Dylan Smith after the centre-back helped his side to a crucial 2-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Simon Murray and David Cancola scored either side of half-time for the Staggies, who won on the road for the first time since a victory at Easter Road in early November.

Scotland Under-17 international Smith was handed a surprise start against leaders Celtic last week and the defender backed up that assured performance with another impressive display.

The youngster made a vital block from Connor McLennan and his back-post header set up Cancola’s second-half goal.

Mackay said: “Young Dylan Smith is only 16 and his performance belied his age.

“He was up against a good player in Stevie May but he was good positionally and also showed his aerial ability.

“We had to be strong against a lot of balls into the box as they have good delivery and put bodies in there.

“Dylan was one we decided not to put out on loan to the Highland League at the start of the season. I felt we could get him training with the senior pros, then we would see real improvement.

“He is a huge talent at 16. He made his debut at Ibrox, then his first start against Celtic and Kyogo (Furuhashi) but he played so well in really testing circumstances against a good striker.”

The one downside for County was the injury to striker Eamonn Brophy and, having lost Ross Callachan last week, Mackay admitted the injury list is a major concern.

He added: “We took a blow when we lost Eamonn after the injuries last week.

“It looks like he has done his thigh but we will see. It adds to a list of inexplicable injuries.

“We will patch them up and see what we have left. Maybe we will play Aberdeen at six-a-side on Friday night!”

St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson, meanwhile, is hoping that his side can draw on the memories from last season when they finished the season strongly to avoid relegation.

Despite admitting that his side could face another battle against the drop after back-to-back home defeats left them only five points clear of the relegation play-off spot, Davidson believes the Saints are still in a strong position.

He said: “We’re still in a good position and we’ve still got points on the board. We still want those couple of wins to make sure that we’re safe but again we can’t concede goals like that.

“We did it last year when we were in a much worse position. So that’s what I need. I need that attitude, that desire, that togetherness from everybody.

“I know the fans were frustrated today. It wasn’t going our way. The goal was just one long punt up the pitch but we need everybody together.

“That’s why we are successful at St Johnstone so we need everyone to stay together and make sure that we’re fighting and we’re scrapping and we’re ready to go.”