Gary Kirkpatrick @ Rugby Park
Killie threw away a comfortable half-time lead to go down against a well-drilled Dundee United outfit in a thrilling league encounter at Rugby Park.
The home side, which featured a trialist, were seemingly home and dry when they headed into the break at 3-1 but United came powering back in the second period, scoring three very good goals while leaving Killie’s defence red-faced.
Much of the first half was fairly even with both sides at times appearing unconvincing. United couldn’t get out of second gear and it was almost as though their players were charging their batteries for the forthcoming second half onslaught.
Killie’s Jack Paterson had an early shot routinely stopped by United keeper Josh Donaldson in the opening minutes before winger Jack Whittaker failed to capitalise on a United mix-up at the back – his weak effort easily held by Donaldson.
The Tangerines’ only genuine clear-cut opportunity came in the sixth minute when Ali Coote’s close range effort was thwarted by Killie’s Devlin Mackay between the sticks. It was the first of a plethora of superb stops from the young man.
However, on the 22nd minute, United grabbed the first goal of the evening with an added touch of fortune. Stewart Murdoch’s shot-come-cross was driven into the feet of striker Louis Appere after a slight deflection. He had all the time to pick his spot and finish, which he did with aplomb.
At this point, the Killie heads went down and United had the upper hand. Insult was added to injury when young Paterson was forced off with a knock on his foot. Soon after, the Ayrshiremen managed to somehow haul themselves back into the contest via Aidan Wilson’s header. The goal was scrappy but it was 1-1 and that’s all that mattered.
The equaliser seemed to transform the home side – three minutes later, Killie took the lead for the first time. After a cross from the right, Lewis Morrison controlled the ball with his chest and on the turn, he volleyed superbly into the right corner of the goal.
Forward Flo Bojaj deservedly made it three with a composed finish following very naïve defending from United. The Albanian was then substituted two minutes before the interval by coach Paul Stephenson on advice from first-team boss Lee Clark. A start against Celtic on Friday night awaits the big man.
Killie’s mysterious trialist, who played on the right wing, made his first real contribution to the match in the early stages of the second half with a low left-footed drive which forced a save from Donaldson.
It was to be his and Killie’s last chance for a long while as United came out with pace, power and purpose to their play. Mackay’s goalkeeping credentials were tested further when United’s Jordan Hornby had a near-post header wonderfully stopped.
It was only 60 seconds later when Mackay was finally beaten again however. It was a fine individual effort from Appere, his second of the game. He took the ball on his chest, flicked it over his marker’s head before unleashing a shot on the half-volley which found its way underneath Mackay.
The intensity in United’s game seemed to rise and rise as time ticked away. 15 minutes from the end, United were presented with the opportunity to equalise after being awarded a penalty for handball. Up stepped Coote, who placed his strike into the left corner. 3-3 was the score.
A hopeful Whittaker long-ranger was one of two Killie chances in the final stages of the match as United pressed and pressed for the winner. With nine minutes left on the clock, the young Arabs’ comeback was complete via Graham Taylor’s hit after a really well-worked move which appeared to mesmerise Killie’s defence.
A late Oliver McDonald effort should really have burst the net but his strike was well off target in the end. On the face of it, the home side deserved to lose and all credit should go to United for an inspirational comeback.
Defeat leaves Killie on 13 points and three places from the bottom of the league. The U20’s next fixture is away to Hamilton on 22 November 2016.
All images © Gary Kirkpatrick and should not be reproduced without his permission