No. of Shots
Shots on Target
Higginbotham (88 pen)
21: Jamie MacDonald, 12: Darryl Westlake, 06: Mark Connolly,
18: Lee Ashcroft (14: Mark OHara 42), 03: Steven Smith,
23: Greg Kiltie, (37: Scott McLean 92 [Debut]), 28: Josh Magennis,
04: Jamie Hamill, 08: Scott Robinson (17: Aaron Splaine 66),
11: Kallum Higginbotham, 07: Rory McKenzie
Alan Walker @ Rugby Park
It was with some trepidation that the Killie fans head to Rugby Park for the match against last season’s Champions Celtic. Killie had lost their first two games of the season, against Dundee and Aberdeen, shipping six goals (and not scoring any) in the process. Manager Locke rang the changes with Boyd and O’Hara dropped, with Magennis and Kiltie filling their boots. O’Hara got a place on the bench but Boyd (ankle) and Johnston (cruciate) were both left out, the latter out for the rest of the season. Rumours abound that Killie’s plastic pitch has taken its first victim. Celtic had also made changes from their win at Thistle at the weekend, with Janko the Swiss U21 internationalist in at right-back, Rogic in the middle of the park and Forrest on the wing. Killie would also have to contend with Commons (seven goals in six matches against Killie) and Griffiths (hat-trick against Killie last year).
It was Commons and Griffiths who combined on just the second minute of the game, to the groans of the Killie faithful. Forest was felled on the side-line in front of manager Locke, and before referee Crawford Allan’s whistle had finished ringing, Commons had booted a quick free kick over the Killie defence and on to Griffiths. The thumb-like striker controlled the ball well and then slid the ball beyond the onrushing McDonald. More of the same then, it would seem.
Killie looked to be playing long balls into the corner for sole striker Magennis to chase. It was on the fourth minute that Magennis held up one of the same for Kiltie to lay off to McKenzie who then blasted high.
Celtic were controlling the midfield, with Killie’s Hamill and Robinson misplacing passes due to Celtic’s pressing game. In the first ten minutes McDonald had a string of saves to make, with the Killie defence being pulled out of shape by the Celtic strikers, wingers and full backs. Westlake, in particular, was getting a torrid time of it due to James Forrest.
Nevertheless, Killie were pressing Celtic in equal measure and this lead to another chance on the thirteenth minute. Under pressure, Rogic misplaced a pass in the middle of the field. Kiltie was on to it on a flash but his shout from outside the box was high and wide.
After good hold up play from Ex-Thistle Higginbotham, Magennis was next to have a shot. Whether or not this shot was on target will never be known as it was deflected for a corner. The corner was delivered to the far edge of the box where Steven Smith was on hand to, you guessed it, blooter high and wide.
James Forrest was still getting plenty of his own way against Westlake and on the 22nd minute he raced up the wing and laid the ball off to Griffiths whose shot was blocked for a corner. The resultant corner was cleared only as far as Johansen who had his shot of blasting over the bar.
Killie were sticking to their game plan, however, and Magennis latched on to another long ball and had his shot blocked for another Killie corner. Steven Smith thought twice about shooting after collecting from the corner and elected this time to pass instead, however his passing was from Hamill’s book and never made the intended target.
Kris Commons left the field on the 29th minute, after injuring his thigh having another shot at McDonald’s goal, being replaced by ex-Dundee United favourite Gary Mackey Steven. However, Celtic’s dominance in midfield was not to be tested with Johansen and Griffiths linking up well.
Westlake was having no joy against Mackay-Steven but did manage to displace Izaguirre on the wing. A quick lay off to McKenzie led to a fantastic through ball for Magennis. One on one with Scotland number 1 Craig Gordon and, you guessed it, high and wide from Magennis. Still, at least Killie were getting shots at goal, if not on goal.
Gordon was finally called into action on the 38th minute. From a Killie free-kick in the middle of the field, Ashcroft got a good header on target with Gordon saving with his foot. The ball fell to Westlake who could only head it back into Gordon’s arms. That was to be last of Ashcroft’s involvement though as he was struggling after a clash with Gordon and was replaced by Mark O’Hara, the versatile young player moving straight into centre-back beside Connelly.
Celtic were pushing for a second and a free-kick was delivered into the box for van Dyke to head against the post. The rebound fell to Rogic whose shot was saved my McDonald and Rogic then blasted high at the second attempt. Then, on the 43rd minute, came Killie’s first goal of the season, and what a goal it was.
McKenzie collected the ball in midfield and laid it off to Higginbotham who then send Westlake down the side of the pitch. Westlake latched on to the ball and sent in a low cross across the face of the goal. Cue none other than Northern Ireland’s Josh Magennis to muscle his way in front of the Celtic defence to stab the ball home in front of the boisterous travelling support.
Half-time came and went and the second half went much the same as the first, with Hamill losing possession in midfield and Forrest turning Westlake inside out. It was on one of those occasions that Forrest beat Westlake, his cross was missed by Hamill and the ball fell kindly to Griffiths. The Celtic forward then somehow managed to miss from all of five yards.
If you don’t score from five yards, then why not score from 25 yards? Celtic began to shoot from distance but McDonald was equal to each shot. That was, until, the 55th minute. Rogic did well to hold off the Killie captain Connelly, and managed to square to Bitton. Given plenty of space and time as Robinson was nowhere to be seen, Bitton set up his shot and then fired an unstoppable 30 yard screamer into the postage stamp corner of McDonald’s goal.
Celtic had lots of possession after taking the lead and Mulgrew, on for the tricky Forrest, was getting plenty of opportunity to shoot and cross. Killie were reduced to trying to score on the break and on one such break McKenzie forced Gordon into a fingertip save from 35 yards.
Griffiths was determined to get on the score sheet again and was unlucky not to score with McDonald holding firm, O’Hara standing strong and a couple of speculative acrobatic shots going wide.
It was Mulgrew, however, who netted next. After ghosting past a couple of weak Killie challenges, Mulgrew passed the ball inside to Griffiths. McDonald again saved the striker’s shot but could only parry onto the onrushing Mulgrew who had continued his run. Mulgrew calmly slid the ball into the back of the net. Fortunately for Killie, Mulgrew had been a little too quick and was correctly judged offside by the East stand linesman. Ten minutes to go, one goal in it.
The impressive youngster Splaine, on for Robinson, won a corner after a good run down the line in front of the Frank Beattie stand’s supporters. From the resultant corner, Smith won a foul at the edge of the box and Splaine forced Gordon into a diving save to keep the match level. O’Hara then forced Gordon into another save with a header from the resultant corner.
Greg Kiltie was also doing well against the Celtic defence and after skipping into the box, all Izaguirre could do was clip his ankles to send Kiltie crashing to the ground. Crawford Allan has no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Three minutes to go and Killie had a lifeline. No Jamie Hamill from the spot this season though, as up stepped Kallum Higginbotham. Higginbotham sent Gordon the wrong way with a cheeky chip right down the middle of the goal, reminiscent of, well, let’s not go there.
Killie held out for the next couple of minutes and John Collin’s too smart, too fast, Celtic superstars were two points down. Locke’s relegation favourites are still bottom, but with that fighting spirit, it won’t be for long.
Gary Locke: "He kept us in it, Jamie MacDonald's made some great saves and we've had a couple of chances and are delighted we took them. We certainly believed that we could get something out of the game. Obviously, we had to weather a wee storm as well. One thing about the lad [Higginbotham], he's confident. He believes in himself. He showed the Kallum Higginbotham that played at Partick last year, showed his qualities. He wasn't the only one. You're going to have to have all the players to play well to get a result against Celtic and we had that. It's something to build on now. Hopefully that can be the result that kick-starts our season."
All images © Sandy Ferguson and should not be reproduced without his permission