Saints 0 Killie 1 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Rustybitz, Caff, Liam,
Davidson, Deuchar, Sammy, Morais
Subs: Main, Garters, Mooner, JJ, Peaso, May, Hemsley
After the disappointment of dropping two points last weekend against a team of dodgy wrestlers from Hamilton aided and abetted by a referee whose incompetence has only been matched in Scottish football in recent times by the Ibrox finance department, we at least had a quick chance to make amends in front of the Perth support with a game against one of the other struggling teams in Killie. There was also the added spice of trying to get our own back for that lacklustre defeat we suffered at the hands of Mumblin' Jim's boys at Rugby Park earlier in the season. Things have improved for us in the last six weeks or so though with only one close defeat at Aberdeen while the Ayrshire side haven't had their troubles to seek losing at home last weekend to Scotland's other favourite crisis club Hearts - still it hadn't done much to derail the lacklustre media campaign to push Jeffries forward for the national manager's job.
The Saints fans had some grounds for optimism for this one. We'd dominated the game last weekend and while not capitalising on our chances, there's no doubt that we should have taken the points. The players had been showing a lot more consistency and as usual you got the feeling that if the midfield were on the ball we'd control most of the play. Mind you with Kevin "StreakofPish" Kyle up front for Killie, a flowing end-to-end Brazilian style of play from today's opponents seemed relatively unlikely with the long ball route one creativity the order of the day for them.
The game though turned into the sort of waking nightmare that goes on for ages. Just likely last week the opposition had a couple of chances, scored one and spent the rest of the time packing their defence and soaking up what pressure we could apply like a sponge. Add to that the sort of timewasting tactics that ruin the game as a spectacle but give the likes of Billy Reid a wet dream and you can see why there is little to smile about tonight. Just like the Accies game we weren't physical enough, didn't take our chances and looked about as likely to score as North Korea do of winning the World Cup. It was all the more galling because we are capable of so much more and dominated the ninety more than some of the games we've won this season. But a solitary point from a possible six at home to two of the league's poorer teams is almost enough to start the crisis headlines being dusted down.
After only one change to the starting lineup last weekend, a lack of further injuries meant that Del had some room for tactical switches today - especially bearing in mind the strength of Kevin Kyle for the opposition. Garters had been passed fit after his shoulder injury and came into the squad. Del opted to keep the same defence with the only change to the starting eleven being Liam coming in for Mooner. Meanwhile the bench saw a comeback appearance for Peaso as Millar dropped out.
There was a decent crowd through from the West (obviously Kilmarnock's not a real football town like Hamilton) and the pitch looked to have recovered slightly from the doing it received at the Challenge Cup Final, although the surface got greasier as the game went on allowing the usual Keystone Kops impressions from the Saints players as they struggled to keep their feet. Surprisingly we started well with Fil on the right wing. Killie managed an early corner but it didn't cause any problems. Deuchar managed to connect with a rare header in the 4th minute but his flick on for Sammy was just to the wrong side - still at least the general direction was correct. Mackay, Liam and Jody linked up next but the cross was too near the keeper. The Killie defence looked to be there for the taking but we didn't create enough in the opposition box. The Doc got on the end of a Danny ball to set up Sammy but his shot went wide.
A Rustybitz slip in the 7th minute almost let Burchill through but Smith managed to get the ball and clear it off the Killie striker for a goal kick. A minute later we almost took the lead after some good play on the right from Mackay and Fil saw the latter try angled shot that Brown did well to tip wide. The resulting corner, like so many today was wasted with Deuchar and Davidson unable to breach their defence. Morais and Deuchar combined to win another pointless corner which nearly cost us dear as Killie broke up the park and only a timely intervention from a backtracking Morais cleared the final cross. Jody saw a long-range attempt go over the bar and a nice low cross from Morais ended with a snapshot from Liam on the edge of the six yard box that brought out a decent save from the keeper.
But with 14 minutes gone Killie had another break down the left with plenty of room to attack and the impressive Taouil was given room to get into the Saints box. A simple low square cutback and the StreakofPish was there to tap the ball into the net. You could see the heads go down.
It took a few minutes before we pressed back but in the 18th minute Sammy and Fil linked on the right to play the ball back for Jody whose shot was tipped out for a corner. That led to a couple of crosses but already you could sense the deja-vu from last week. Still we were the only team really creating anything. With 21 minutes gone Rustybitz sent a long ball forward for Liam. He turned his marker but his shot went low and straight into Brown's hands. Sammy had a cross punched clear next and a Grainger throw-in found Sammy who laid the ball off to Craig but his shot was blocked. The ball came back in courtesy of Jody but it reached Davidson this time and his header went wide. That summed up Murray's afternoon really as he had possibly his worst game for Saints.
The whole midfield seemed to be overcrowded in the centre as both wingers tended to drift in there. The chances though were still falling our way. Sammy just lost out to Brown chasing a through ball from Liam and a couple of freekicks were punched clear. Killie did have a rare break in the 30th minute but after Fil was skinned on the wing, the low cutback was held by Smith before the defence cleared the danger. But we continued to press despite little going our way from the referee as continual fouls on the Doc were allowed. Sammy had another low drive held while a Bryson effort was blocked by Davidson at the other end. Another Morais freekick found Rustybitz in the box but his header was held.
Then it was time for Kenny Deuchar's season to be summed up in one moment. Three minutes before the break and a move from Liam and Danny on the left ended with a deep cross knocked on to the far end of the six yard box. There was the Doc in space with the ball landing perfectly for him. And he bloody well slipped as he took the shot. Missing the ball he recovered but the final shot was as weak as a Celtic European campaign. It may just have been bad luck but it's like he's been cursed by a Lambie-type voodoo job or something.
After ending the half pressing Saints started the second period in the same way although we were using the flanks more. The final ball was still causing us problems however. Morris had one good run into the box but had no support. Next a long kick out by Smith in the 50th minute found Morais after a head on but the winger's turn and shot was again tipped wide. The corner eventually resulted in a Jody header but again it didn't find a way past Brown. Smith nearly resurrected the Ghost of Goalie's past with a poor kickout in the 55th minute but thankfully Killie failed to capitalise on the error. They did carve out a chance a minute later as Caff stood off a break allowing the cutback and shot but Grainger was there to block.
The cheating started just after that with Kyle going down in a challenge with Rustybitz - no head knock but the referee still brought play back despite Saints being on a good break. At least it gave us a chance to see the miraculous healing take place as Kyle got up unaided. As the half wore on we were still dominating the game But lacked any real spark with Sammy especially fading. This was summed up in the 62nd minute as a Saints corner was cleared. Nobody picked up the loose ball and it was eventually played back to Caff. He squared it to Liam who just punted it forward into empty space with no one making any effort to chase it.
For all that we almost scored three minutes later as Grainger and Liam linked up again on the left before the former played a low cutback that was deflected by a Killie defender across his own goal - the blue shirts didn't get anywhere near it. A Morais cross next was headed in the box for Sammy who was bundled over from behind but yet again this season we were denied a good penalty claim.
Del made a couple of changes after that with JJ replacing Deuchar and Mooner coming on for Liam. It didn't make much difference and with Saints pressing forward more we were leaving gaps at the back. Still a freekick found Morais in the 74th minute and his break and chip along the goalline found Rustybitz at the back post but the skipper headed wide. Another break in the 77th minute (after more Acciesque timewasting) saw Rustybitz get on the end of a Mackay cross but his although he hit the target the keeper saved.
Peaso came on to some cheers for the last ten minutes as Davidson made way. Mooner saw a cross cleared and then Morais cut in from the left before firing in a shot that Brown held. Killie managed a shot after intercepting a loose pass from Grainger but that was all they managed. The closing stages were just frustrating more than anything else. Killie's Hamill picked up the first booking three minutes from the end for timewasting (pity the referee hadn't exercised that control earlier in the game) and Jody evened things up with a needless yellow himself for a tug in injury time. In between that the final action of the game had seen Grainger put a freekick and a right- foot shot wide. There was to be no happy ending today.
Plenty of boos from those left at full time and you can see why. MoM for me was Morais who provided most of our creativity but too many were well below par today - Deuchar, Rustybitz, Davidson all made bad mistakes at times. We are better than we saw today but it's a fine line between success and failure in this league and right now we're on the wrong side of it.
Never mind though, it's only the Death Star next week!
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