No. of Shots
Shots on Target
|Goals||Magennis (13, 80)||
01: Mark Ridgers , 14: Mark OHara ,
18: Lee Ashcroft , 26: Conrad Balatoni ,
05: Stuart Findlay (03: Steven Smith 26 ), 04: Jamie Hamill ,
19: Craig Slater , 11: Kallum Higginbotham ,
23: Greg Kiltie (09: Kris Boyd 84), 16: Tope Obadeyi , (08: Scott Robinson 72),
28: Josh Magennis
Alan Walker @ Rugby Park
There are some things that never change in football: Gary Locke will always be known as Jim Jeffries’ son-in-law (he is not), Hearts will always be known as a dirty team (they are), and losing late goals will always be a sickener, always.
Gary Locke was forced to ring the changes for Wednesday’s Scottish League Cup meeting with Hearts. With McHattie cup-tied, McKenzie, Westlake and McDonald injured, it was always going to be a make-shift defensive unit. Obadeyi stepped in for McKenzie, who had been playing well over the past few games. New signing Balatoni replaced McHattie, with Findlay taking the LB’s role and Balatoni joining Ashcroft at CB. O’Hara replaced Westlake at RB and it was emergency loan signing Ridgers who replaced benched Jamie McDonald.
Both sides were clearly up for the challenge and looking to book their slot in the last 8 of the competition. Unfortunately, that meant for quite a dirty game, particularly from the Edinburgh visitors. Magennis had to contend with many fouls from Augustyn and Paterson, only to draw the first booking from underperforming referee Craig Thomson in an act of retaliation after a particularly nasty elbow. Sow was also giving away a slew of free-kicks throughout the game, but somehow managed to stay out of the ref’s book. Meanwhile, Hearts’ Swanson got plenty of heavy treatment from a range of Killie players as he bossed the game for Hearts.
Fouls aside, it was Billy King, the unfortunately names Hearts midfielder who had the first shot at goal from outside the box. However, Ridgers watched the ball clear the post.
Killie were just as dangerous on the attack, and perhaps even more so when they displayed a fantastic move on the twelfth minute. Magennis picked the ball up in midfield and laid it off to Higginbotham. The ex-Thistle rifled a ball across the pitch which was well controlled by Kiltie. After a neat one-two with O’Hara, Kiltie raced down the line and fired in a delightful cross for Magennis to nod home his second header in two games. A fantastic goal from start to finish.
Ten minutes and a number of fouls later and Killie were hit with another injury. Celtic loanee Findlay took a heavy blow to the face while competing for a header. The game was stopped for treatment but the youngster was stretchered off, looking very dazed, and replaced by Steven Smith. Smith himself, just back from injury and not looking anywhere near full fitness.
Killie were playing well, with Hearts reduced to shots at goal from distance. Sam Nicholson was next to try from just inside the box and from long range. However, they were easy saves for Loanee Ridgers. Killie had a few chances themselves, with headers from Balatoni and Ashcroft just off target.
The dirty first half finished 1-0 to the Ayrshire men, surprisingly with only three players booked. Perhaps even more surprisingly that Killie had picked up two of them.
In the second half, Hearts pushed Killie even more with the home side dropping deeper and deeper as time wore on. Jamie Walker replaced ineffective Billy King and Juanma replaced Danny Swanson as Hearts sought out an equaliser. Killie were trying to kill the game off on the counter attack with Higginbotham, in particular, having a good game in an attacking role and was unlucky not to get his long range effort on target.
Killie’s fortunes seem to have bettered since the return of young midfielder Craig Slater from injury. He was next to try his luck but his shot was wide of Alexander’s left-hand post.
The second half continued much like the first in terms of fouls, with Prince Buaben and Craig Slater both picking up bookings around the hour mark.
Obadeyi, just back from injury, couldn’t last the full 90minutes of helping Smith in defence and aiding the forwards in attack. He was replaced by defensive midfielder Scott Robinson with 20minutes left.
Not long after, Hearts sneaked their equaliser. Ashcroft conceded a corner and whilst the delivery was headed away, it fell to Alim Ozturk. Ozturk took a chance and shot from the edge of the box. Killie fans watched with aghast as the ball trickled past most of the players on the field and into the back of the net past an unguarded goalpost. That goal was as ugly and Killie’s was beautiful.
Nevertheless, Killie were able to respond and did so five minutes later in spectacular fashion. Their first goal was all about teamwork, the second goal was all about individual skill and tenacity. Higginbotham picked up the ball in his own box and set forth for the Moffatt Stand goals. With no real pass on, he scampered up the East stand line until he got to the edge of Alexander’s box. A pass along the ground to Magennis allowed the in-form striker to swivel and stick a low shot into the back of the net. 2-1 Killie and just over ten minutes left.
Greg Kiltie was feeling a thigh strain late on and Locke was forced into a final change as he brought on Kris Boyd on the 85th minute. Boyd took the lone strikers role as Magennis moved into Kiltie’s role on the right wing.
However, it was the Hearts substitutions who shined in the closing staged of the game. Jamie Walker was sent scampering down the line, with the impressive Jamie Hamill on tow. However, Hamill couldn’t stop Walker getting a delightful cross in which Juanma was only too happy to head past Ridgers. Extra-time loomed.
Stuff extra-time, said Hearts. Juanma was sent down the left-hand side this time, and while he sclaffed his shot, Sam Nicholson was on hand to volley the loose ball into the back of the net in front of the visiting support.
Boyd had a good chance late on but he couldn’t control the through ball well enough to get it past Alexander. Aside from a few penalty shouts, Killie didn’t have anything more to offer and dropped out of the competition.
Still, many of the fans stayed to applaud the team off the park for another good performance which was a million miles away from that which was served up at the beginning of the season. Killie have just two days to lick their (many) wounds until they face Hamilton, again at Rugby Park. Locke again faces selection issues at the back, but with Magennis, Higginbotham and Hamill playing so well, Killie fans could be optimistic of a third consecutive win in the league.
Gary Locke: "Cruel one for us tonight, I thought our performance was really good. We looked a real threat, played some terrific stuff but just that little bit of luck you need to get through in the cup eluded us tonight. Huge blow for us, everyone is really, really disappointed in there because we put so much into the game but football can be cruel as I certainly don't think we deserved that. The fans here are sensible supporters, they will have seen how well the boys played there and the effort they put in and some of the stuff we played was excellent, you just need that wee bit of luck as well and we didn't get that tonight."
Robbie Neilson: "I thought we actually played well in quite a lot of the game. We lost a really bad goal at the start but we'd started well, first 10-15 minutes really well, dominating the game. But losing a goal from a cross, which was disappointing and it gave Killie a lift, it was difficult to get our passing game going again. Second half, I thought we passed well again, got back in it, got the goal to make it 1-1 and looked like we'd go on to win it and then lost another sloppy goal. It was then really gung-ho stuff, trying to get a wee bit of discipline in the game and keep going and when we got the equaliser I thought, 'we'll take that', and then we got the winner. Great to get through but shouldn't be losing two goals and it's something we really need to nail down."
All images © Sandy Ferguson and should not be reproduced without his permission