28-9-2001 Glenavon (A) UEFA Cup

Killie Get Late But Deserved Euro Winner

 Glenavon 0 Kilmarnock 1

(UEFA Cup, Preliminary 1st Round Leg, Lurgan, Aug 9th 2001)  

Kilmarnock recorded their first away win in Europe since Dec 21st 1966, having beaten the Belgians La Gantoise 2-1, almost twenty-five years ago!

In the land of the Late Late Show it was perhaps unsurprising that Kilmarnock required more than the regulation time to prove their superiority over a team of plucky part-timers who came close to recording the biggest result in their modest history. 

Chris Innes chose the perfect moment to double his scoring tally in his three years at Kilmarnock, heading home a Garry Hay free kick three minutes into stoppage time to break the hearts and end the hopes of a team crippled by cramp after their exhaustive efforts. 

What should have been a formality transpired to be a fraught encounter against a team or battlers in the first leg of the UEFA Cup qualifier, and Bobby Williamson's relief was understandable. "We knew it was going to be a hard game because Irish teams always put up a good fight," he said, "but I felt that if we were going to score, it would be from a set-piece." 

In an effort to increase productivity in attack - the main failing during last weekend's creditable if ultimately fruitless performance against Celtic - Williamson offered Michel Ngonge support in the shape of another of his recent acquisitions, David Merdy. 

The Franco-Belgian forward line offered hope of a much sought-after away advantage as Glenavon's defensive guardsmen struggled to temper their bombast in the early, erratic exchanges. Ngonge, who managed to keep Joos Valgaeren, Olivier Tebily, and Johan Mjallby on their toes for much of Saturday night's 1-0 defeat, again looked Killie's best hope of a breakthrough against the Irish league's surprise package of last season with his pace and power belieing his 34 years. 

However, the early promise soon subsided as the home side found their feet, with Gerry McMahon, the former St Johnston midfielder, pivotal to their positive play. 

Kilmarnock's Achilles heel, a plethora of passes with no penetration, reared itself again, with Merdy particularly spurnful. His first attempt may well have been net-bound but for a timely intervention by Brian Mallon, a deflection not noticed by the referee, whose award of a goal kick was met with a chorus of disapproval. Merdy's next effort, though, summed up the shaggy-haired striker's evening. Having been played through by Ally Mitchell, Merdy, with only the keeper to beat from 12 yards, took his eye off the ball and succeeded only in executing an embarrassing miskick. 

To Williamson's dismay, the advertising boards plastered across the top of the west stand were at greater risk than Stuart Addis' goal, and after darting from the directors' box to the dugout, the manager's bark suggested Merdy would soon be put out of his misery. 

At the other end, Kilmarnock's troubles continued with McMahon determined to put on a show. One cross careered across Gordon Marshall's goal with Kevin Keegan only inches away from target with a hook shot. 

None the less, the near miss roused the home support to life and provided Glenavon with renewed belief. 

McMahon was the conjurer of the closing chance of the half, with another dynamic delivery missed by a matter of inches by the outstretched leg of Glenavon's very own Kevin Keegan. 

Williamson resisted the strong temptation to shuffle his pack at the interval, but it did not take long for his patience with Merdy to snap, with Christophe Cocard sent on in his place shortly after the restart. 

The alteration almost paid off immediately with Cocard providing hitherto unseen purpose to the attack. He weaved an opening for the ineffectual Andy McLaren, but the midfielder's shot was swatted away by Addis. 

In the closing stages, Kilmarnock played as though racing against the clock and in their haste to net an away goal, conducted a cavalry charge on the Glenavon penalty box which paid off deep into injury time when Hay's free-kick was headed home by Chris Innes to delight the visitors, and their 1,500+ travelling diehards.

Kilmarnock: Marshall, Canero, Innes, Dindeleux, Hay, Mitchell, Mahood, Calderon, McLaren, Merdy, Ngonge. Substitutes Cocard, Meldrum, Reilly, Hessey, Pizzo, Fowler, Di Giacomo.

Bobby's Post Match Comments

"We had a lot of set-pieces and I felt if we were going to score that it was going to come from a set piece, They were well-organised, they defended in numbers and limited us to few chances. We had a lot of the ball, but didn't create as much as I would have liked. I knew it was going to be difficult - the Irish teams don't make life easy for you at all. They work hard for each other, they're very proud of each other and you saw a few lads going down with cramp towards the end and that's credit to them for running their socks off.  I can never fault our lads for effort, but some of them didn't play as well as they can play. It's all hypothetical, but we've won the game 1-0.  The supporters were fantastic, they never stopped until the end of the game. That helped to encourage us on and we finally got the goal. Games like this are always a hiding to nothing. Scottish teams have a tendency to slag themselves off when we don't produce, but we got the result and now we're in the driving seat to get us into the next round."

Malone's Post Match Comments

"I'm disappointed with the result. I thought we did enough to get the draw and I'm pleased with my own team's performance - they worked their socks off.  At the end of the day the fitness told and they managed to run us down.It was very cruel, but we only lost 1-0. It's always difficult away from home, but if we can go to Rugby Park and get an early goal then we're right back in it."

Alan Mahood's Post Match Comments

"The feeling inside the dressing room at the end of the game was one of sheer relief. It was a very frustrating match for us and we struggled to create any real clear-cut chances. Our final ball into the area wasn't good enough, but it is always difficult to break down a team with nine or 10 men behind the ball. At the time, I wasn't aware that it was the last minute of the game when Chris Innes put us in front with a good header. Now we must perform better in the return leg in two weeks time and make sure we progress to the next stage." 

Chris Innes's Post Match Comments

"Defenders like myself, Frederic Dindeleux and Peter Canero are just looking to keep a clean sheet, so to score a goal was a bonus. It's only my second for Killie and it's been a long time coming. I've been getting slaughtered for not getting enough goals so it is a weight off my mind." nders like myself, Frederic Dindeleux and Peter Canero are just looking to keep a clean sheet, so to score a goal was a bonus. It's only my second for Killie and it's been a long time coming. I've been getting slaughtered for not getting enough goals so it is a weight off my mind."




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