Gary Kirkpatrick @ Rugby Park
Berwick Rangers strolled past Killie’s U20s at Rugby Park to advance to the next round of the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup.
This wasn’t the start new Development team boss Andy Millen was yearning for as his young side were out-thought and outfought all over the park against senior opponents.
Few positives could be taken from this tepid match - Will Graham and Alex Samizadeh stood out as the only bright sparks for Killie. Other summer signings including Calum Waters, Daniel Higgins and Josh Jeffries seemed unable to convince the home support. Early days however.
Higgins, tipped by sections of his former employer’s support as a rising star of the Scottish game, gifted Berwick their opening strike before being forced off with a head injury in the first half - a brief but drab night for him.
Worryingly, experienced midfielder Steven Smith, who has just returned from injury, seemed almost anonymous whenever we had possession of the sphere - not very encouraging from the sole overage player in the team. Even worse, he was replaced on the hour mark by new addition Daniel Scally, meaning he is likely to be a starter for the first team versus Celtic.
On the other hand, the Borderers were composed and rarely shifted out of second gear in a very comfortable evening under the lights. Steven Thomson stroked home on the 20 minute mark to give them the lead before Michael McKenna opened up a bit of daylight between the sides with a lovely looping header.
Overall, this was a complete mismatch and further reinforced the SPFL’s scandalous inclusion of Colt teams in the new-look Challenge Cup format, introduced at the beginning of last season.
As mentioned, Graham was a promising outlet at times and tried his best all game to score a goal - his three efforts proved to be ineffective however. Samizadeh showed some nice touches and looks like a chirpy customer in attack. His involvement included a low shot from a tight angle and a stinging 25 yard rocket, both well saved by the Berwick keeper.
Nothing else of note could be said regarding Killie in an attacking sense as Berwick dominated possession for much of the encounter. We had a decent spell of pressure towards the end but it was far too late to stage a comeback, nor did we have the quality to penetrate Berwick’s defence regardless.
Millen probably knew this wasn’t going to be the perfect start to his tenure as Killie’s U20 gaffer but he’ll look to dust his team down and prepare them for the Development League campaign which begins next week.
We start the league season against Hibernian at Rugby Park before a trip up the road to Paisley where we’ll face St Mirren.