Derek McInnes heaped praise on all-action debutant Ryan Alebiosu after Kilmarnock secured their place in the last 16 of the Premier Sports Cup with a 4-1 home win over Stenhousemuir.
The 20-year-old right-back joined on a season-long loan from Arsenal earlier this week and he made an instant impression on the Rugby Park support with an excellent first-half display before being substituted as he works his way towards full match fitness.
“Young Ryan, what can you say,” McInnes told Killie TV. “He was so positive. He looked as if he really enjoyed being out there. I couldn’t have been more impressed with him.
“We were hoping to get a bit more minutes from him but we just looked at his numbers and he actually put a 90-minute performance into 45 with his energy levels. He’s played the game the way he’s been in training. The fans are excited by him and they’re going to enjoy watching him. What a terrific debut.”
McInnes was also pleased with the display of winger Jordan Jones, who returned to Rugby Park earlier this week three years after his departure.
“The fans know about Jordan and what he’s capable of and I thought he lit the game up at times,” continued the manager. “He carried a threat and was unlucky not to score. I thought he was very influential. When we were good, he was behind a lot of it.”
Killie qualified for the last 16 as one of the three best group-stage runners-up, with 10 points from a possible 12. Partick, who beat the Rugby Park side on penalties, topped the section, but McInnes was pleased to progress through a round in which Premiership rivals Hibernian, St Mirren and St Johnstone all crashed out.
“The main purpose was to get out the group,” he said. “We’re still trying to put our squad together and get minutes into players. To keep ourselves in the cup was vitally important.
“It doesn’t feel like the League Cup yet, it still feels like pre-season. But we had to illustrate to the players that they had to treat it like a cup tie, and they did, so good on them for that. Ultimately, we’ve not won the group down to a missed penalty but we’ve come out what could have been a tricky group.
“We’ve seen a lot of Premiership teams fall at this hurdle. We needed to be back early in pre-season to make sure we were ready for the League Cup. I think we’re more ready for the league and hopefully with a few more additions and getting a few more out of the treatment room we’ll look even stronger in the weeks ahead.”