No. of Shots
Shots on Target
McKay (24 pen)
Jamie McDonald, Mark O'Hara, Mark Connolly, Conrad Balatoni, Stuart Findlay (24 mins), Tope Obadeyi (Greg Kiltie 63), Craig Slater , Jamie Hamill , Stevie Smith (Kevin McHattie 60), Kris Boyd (Dale Carrick 87), Josh Magennis.
Subs Not Used: Mark Ridgers, Ross Barbour, Scott Robinson, Lee Ashcroft.
Alan Walker @ Rugby Park
After last week’s mauling by Thistle, Killie manager Gary Locke rang in plenty of changes in the line-up for the home game against struggling Dundee United. Out went Robinson, Higginbotham, Kiltie and McHattie, in came Slater, Boyd, Findlay and Hamill. Locke clearly trying to nullify the five-man midfield of United with Findlay at left-back, and Hamill and Slater in midfield. In-from-the-cold Boyd was up front with the displaced Magennis shifted to the right-wing.
Those personnel and tactical changes were justified in just four minutes with a well worked goal. Findlay won possession at left back and played the ball to Boyd. Boyd laid it off to Slater who sent the ball to the other side of the pitch for Magennis. He steadied himself and then whipped in a fantastic cross for the naturally predatorial striker Boyd to volley home. Cue a little teasing for the 200 odd visiting fans who had braved the elements to support their team.
Magennis almost got another assist ten minutes later, this time from a long throw. The ball was allowed to bounce in the box and enigmatic winger Tope Obadeyi attempted a hook shot which was well saved by the United goalkeeper Szromnik. Obadeyi was again thwarted by Szromnik after heading towards goal from an O’Hara cross.
Killie were on fire and it looked like it was going to be a cricket score. That is, until Jamie Hamill had his say in matters. He received a pass from Slater, got the ball stuck under his feet and then attempted a back-heal back to Slater. The pass was woefully short and Slater lost out to John Rankin, fouling him in the process, the ball broke to Spittal who was then unceremoniously up-ended by Connelly. Free-kick to United and a booking for Slater.
New United signing Sinama-Pongolle tried his luck from the free-kick. The ball took a slight touch off the wall and so while MacDonald got down well to save, he couldn’t hold on. Mackay pick the ball up on the left-hand side of the six-yard box and passed along it for McGowan. McGowan felt the slightest of touches from Findlay and since he wasn’t getting near the pass he took the opportunity to fall. The ref bought it, penalty to United and a red card for the 20 year old defender. Mackay duly dispatched the penalty and Killie had a job on their hands for the remaining 70 minutes.
Killie had to weather the storm for the next 15 minutes as United’s heads were up and they tried to make the numerical advantage count. Sinama-Pongolle was controlling the midfield as Smith was relocated to left-back. Balatoni (or Balatoli if you believe some of the Killie support) and Connelly had MacDonald to thank after saving a shot from Mackay when he was allowed to run through on goal. It was clear that United are a little low on confidence up front, with Mackay, Spittall, Sinama-Pongolle and Rankin all missing from around the edge of the box.
Killie weren’t out of it though and were very unlucky not to take the lead again just before half time. Magennis received the ball in the middle of the pitch from Hamill, ran twenty yards, rode a few tackles and then laid the ball off to right-back O’Hara. O’Hara sent in a perfect low cross for Magennis who missed the ball and possibly put off Boyd as the goal-scorer sclaffed his shot past the left-hand post. Half-time: 1-1.
Dundee United were getting good moves down the flanks, particularly when Magennis didn’t help out O’Hara as much as possible, but it was on the other side of the pitch that Smith took a hard cross to the face. While he tried to shake it off, he was soon replaced by McHattie, the winning scorer in the last Killie-United fixture.
The second half went much the same way as most of the first, with United having most of the possession but resorting to shooting from distance. Mackay, Spittal and Soutar all had shots which were saved or missed. Dundee United should have had a second penalty though. Mackay threaded a ball through to Spittall and as Connelly was nowhere near getting the ball he decided to grab Spittall with both hands.
Spitall lost control of the ball and was clearly furious that the penalty decision was not awarded. As was United manager Mixu Paatelainen who was given a speaking to by referee John Beaton. A close call for Connelly who has been rank rotten since his return. Mixu had United playing decent football, with plenty of neat passing and Sinama-Pongolle controlling the midfield. Dixon should have done better after a typical United move. Sinama-Pongolle passed to Mackay, who evaded a couple of tackles and laid it off to Spittall at the edge of the box. Spittall then set-up up Dixon who blasted wide.
Rankin was allowed to run for 20 yards in the middle of the pitch and again split the central defence with a pass to Spittall. His shot, like most of the others, was easy for MacDonald to contend with. Static Connelly’s blushed spared again. Obadeyi was frustrating the East Stand regulars with his erratic play and seemed to mess up fine runs with some dodgy decision making at the crux of the play. Locke must have been frustrated too as Kiltie replaced Obadeyi on the 64th minute.
The replacement picked up a ball with plenty of space on the left, ran about 20 yards and then laid off to Slater. Slater meandered towards the edge of the box and looked to be looking for Magennis on the right. However, he unleashed a fantastic curler shot which beat Szromnik but smacked off the face on the far post.
The last action of the match fell to United. Sinama-Pongolle took a short free-kick to Soutar who passed to Mackay. Makay laid it back to Soutar who shot from the edge of the box and was only denied by a fine flying save by MacDonald. In the end, it was an entertaining 90 minutes for the 2,828 fans who donned their waterproofs for the match. Boyd showed that he still has a good engine and a natural eye for goal and Locke showed that he can mix up the team to suit the game. He’ll need to do the same again next week with the loss of Findlay.
Killie are now joint-eighth with Inverness and Thistle, who both have a game-in-hand and a far superior goal difference. However, we could go eleventh if Motherwell win their game in hand. Next up is ICT in Inverness, always a tough place to go but Locke’s men need to start picking up some wins in order to get away from the foot of the table.
Gary Locke: "The decision at the penalty changes the game, but we still looked really good on the break. I thought the boys did brilliantly and were unlucky not to win it in the end. It certainly looked like Stuart doesn't do a lot [penalty incident] and from where the ref was I wasn't sure about his view of it. Unfortunately it's a big decision that went against us, but the response from the players was brilliant and they deserve enormous credit for the way they went about the game. With ten men we still looked really dangerous, we still had a lot of the ball and we used it well, and all day we caused Dundee United problems. If we had kept eleven men on the pitch, looking at the game I thought we would have won. Being down to ten men for so long, it's a good point."
All images © Sandy Ferguson and should not be reproduced without his permission