Killie 1 Saints 2 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Danny, Morris, Doobs, Rustybitz, Millar,
Davidson, Deuchar, Sammy, Craig
Subs: Duffy, Garters, Ando, Falky, Jacko, Sheridan, Savo
After last weekend's lunchtime excitement it was another grudge match today as we headed west to try and take some points off the Rugby Park men currently fighting for SPL survival. As well as the defeat at McDiarmid, where we were arguably unlucky not to take something from the game, we've had two dismal uninspiring trips to the Ayrshire ground only to watch Kevin "Bloody" Kyle do his one-man show to leave us with nothing. Whether today was going to be any different remained to be seen but at least there was still some professional pride for Saints to play for, never mind the small matter of the fast-approaching Accies side sneaking up our backs like a taxman poking around the Ibrox petty cash tin.
Of course for Killie there was even more at stake as a defeat last weekend had seen them sitting just one point ahead of a Falkirk side who would never be relegated, at least according to the Bairns version on Pravda and Steven Pressley. The Aberdeen game had seen a few highs and lows for Saints fans last week with the pain of losing another soft goal eased slightly by the sight of Andy Jackson getting his first SPL goal for us - who cares if it rebounded between the post and keeper like a pinball on speed, I'm still crediting it to Jacko. But defensively we looked poor and with Smithy's form looking fairly shaky at times recently, a trip to the ground where Saints keepers seem to like to make cock-ups on a major scale wasn't that enticing for the support.
As Del had reminded people during the week there was still plenty for Saints to play for - the difference between seventh and eighth for a start and several players still had new deals to earn. The TV cameras weren't covering us live this time so that was going to mean the joy of a 3pm kick-off - although the real reason for their absence was possibly down to the possible impact on their lenses of the Battle of the Tango Boys in the rival dugouts as Jimmy Calderwood tried to prove the Sheep were wrong to oust him by pulling off a miracle to keep Killie up. The Rugby Park team have had good run in the SPL but a mid-season change of manager hadn't paid off in the way they'd hoped and defeat today would see the league go to the last game of the season - and given their financial predicament the "R" word . Their form against us had been good and, although the quality of the playing surface played its part in helping them through last time, they probably started as favourites
The end result though, was a Saints performance that transformed from a half-hearted end of season display in the first period to a fighting show in the second and that was enough to see us through against a Killie side that resorted to every cynical cheating tactic they could in an attempt to win the game - the worst part being referee Brines display matched them in pissing off the two hundred of so Saints fans that made the journey. But on the plus side, the attitude of the players as the game wore on was excellent and while we weren't as convincing as we have been at times during the season, there's more than enough for us to build on for next season.
Alan Main was this week's injury concern and a sore finger has meant that we won't see him between the sticks again this season, with a McDiarmid departure more than likely in a few weeks time. Another who is set to leave is Michael Duberry but after a one-match ban last Saturday, he was back in the squad for today's game. The likes of Peaso were still missing but Savo had made his comeback again in a closed doors game in midweek so it gave Del another option up front. Smithy kept his place in goal while the back four saw Mackay come in at right back. with the Doc and Sammy up front with Jacko, Cillian and Savo on the bench. No sign of Irvine or Morais in the squad either. For Killie Kevin StreakofPish Kyle was up front as usual for them as they looked to try and drag themselves clear of the mire.
The first half wasn't brilliant entertainment but there was plenty of action in the opening stages, mainly involving the physios. Two minutes gone and a Killie ball into the Saints area saw Smithy go to punch the ball from Kyle but Rustybitz got onto the end of the action and he was down needing treatment for a head knock. He recovered but the Saints defence and midfield looked shaky early on as Killie pressed forward. They looked sharper and hungrier in the opening stages. Owens took a tumble after a Craig challenge in the fifth minute and the freekick on the left saw Murray and Jody called into action to clear the danger. Three minutes later and Danny headed a cross behind for a corner. That one was headed behind but the follow-up saw the StreakofPish get up to head the ball wide.
Chances for Saints were about as frequent as a Dundee title win but Millar managed to cut in from the right in the 9th minute to try his luck from the edge of the box but his left-footed effort went over the bar. Killie kept up the pressure though and forced another pair of corners in the 12th minute after Grainger made a rare mistake. The first was blocked by Doobs while the second ended with a rare dose of common sense from Brines as he penalised Clancy for climbing. Their next attack started through the more traditional collapse from the StreakofPish and the freekick from that was played into the box where McGuire got behind Doobs - thankfully a sclaff of monumental proportions saw the ball head for the corner flag instead of the goal.
Our next opportunity came in the 16th minute with a freekick into the box headed on by Sammy for Liam but his header went wide of goal. Liam's lack of discipline showed through again a minute later as a warning from the referee was dished out as he kicked the ball away. Generally the side were really poor - the midfield weren't able to string more than a couple of passes together so we were under constant pressure while the strikers had little service up front. We looked slow and almost on our holidays - almost identical to the displays in the first half of the previous couple of games.
The StreakofPish sent a glancing header just wide in the 19th minute - that was followed up two minutes later by Hammell winning a corner after Danny made a great block to his cutback. The corner was punched out by Smithy although Kyle was in to foul the keeper. The referee gave another corner though and this time it ended with Wright going in on Smithy. That left the Saints keeper needing treatment as he was flat out but Wright then totally overreacted when Doobz confronted him. The Killie player raised his hands but when the dust settled Brines only showed him a yellow then compounded his error by booking Doobz, upholding another Scottish refereeing tradition and pissing off the Saints support even more.
Davidson won a corner from a Grainger throw-in in the 24th minute but it was headed clear to Doobs who squared for Jody. His shot from the edge of the box was easily held by Bell. Mackay and Sammy linked up in a rare bit of skill to set up Millar for another cut in but again his effort went just over the bar. Sammy was fouled in the 31st minute but still managed to set up the Doc with a header on and the Doc in the box managed a header before the keeper got to the ball but he sent the ball wide. Killie hit back with a throw-in into the Saints box which the StreakofPish missed but Doobs and Mackay managed to clear their lines. A minute later though and one of the best moves of the game ended with Jody playing a great through ball for Sammy in the box but his angled shot was tipped round for a corner - that came to nothing.
But our luck didn't hold and with 38 minutes gone Killie took the lead. A ball over for Grainger saw him block and clear his lines - somehow referee Brines decided that was a corner. The ball came in and was headed out but not cleared properly. Smithy was on his line but the ball headed around the box before Wright (who should have been sent off earlier) got a touch to head it in from about two yards out. Not a disastrous goal to lose but the defence could have done better.
Saints woke up a bit after that. The Doc tried a cross into the Killie box but Bell held the ball comfortably.Grainger took a shy next and when the long ball was played back to him he sent over a great cross from the left that Sammy managed to head just over the bar. But with a minute to go before the break the Doc released Sammy down the right wing. Sammy took the ball forward but instead of playing a cross laid it back to Muzz and he sent a first time cross looping into the box where steaming into the six yard box came the Doc, losing his marker and heading the ball past Bell to draw us level. Not the classiest of goals and we barely deserved it but it was enough.
The half-time interval saw Saints recharge their batteries and we came out fighting for the start of the second. Millar showed the way from the start with a good run and cross in the 47th minute. Killie hit back with a run and cross but Smithy comfortably held the ball. Doobs let the side down a bit with a passback that went out for a corner but that came to nothing. There was more controversy six minutes into the half when Millar and Jody linked up for the latter to play a great ball into the box for Liam to run onto only for the Saints player to be clipped and downed in the box. As good a penalty as we'll ever get but referee Brines ignored our pleas much to the annoyance of Liam.
Still it seemed to fire us up a bit. A minute later and Millar and Mackay linked up well on the right as part of some patient build-up before Mackay crossed into the box where Sammy, Liam and Davidson all tried to head the ball home only to find Killlie defenders and Bell blocking their way. The referee got in on the act again a couple of minutes later after a long ball for Sammy saw him win the ball from Ford in the Killie box only for the defender to drop and win a freekick instead. Deuchar got onto the next challenge but the keeper came out and managed to clear the danger. Saints kept pressing though and a Sammy cross for the Doc was headed straight at the keeper.
Another Saints freekick in the 58th minute found Sammy in the box with his back to goal. He managed a great turn but his shot was blocked and when the rebound came to Mackay the Killie defence got in the way of his effort as well. Liam was warned about dissent but still managed a good freekick into the box which was headed clear to Grainger. His shy fell for Sammy who set up Davidson but his effort was also cleared. A long ball in the 63rd minute saw Deuchar and Sammy link up to set up Liam but his shot wasn't powerful enough and Bell held it easily.
Brines assumed it was going our way too much as we dominated the play. So next time Davidson was clobbered in the middle of the park he gave the freekick to Killie. While Killie were barely up the park, they rarely threatened. A rare Grainger miss in the 68th minute let McGuire break down the right but his cross was cleared by a backtracking Saints defender. Killie had a dangerous break in the 73rd minute as Salmon (on for Owens) managed to get plenty of space as he broke down the right but thankfully he turned greedy and his shot went across the Saints goal. Davidson and Sammy linked next with the latter's cross for Liam headed on but there were no takers.
But a freekick from the halfway line in the 75th minute finally paid dividends with Davidson heading the ball down for Sammy who took one touch before volleying the ball past Bell from about 8 yards out. Again not the best goal we'll ever see but with the home support subdued, the Killie's players heads dropped. Killie managed to get more and more desperate. Within a minute Hammell took a blatant dive in the box and picked up a booking for his trouble. Del made his first change with Sheridan coming on for Sammy - unfortunately Sheridan seemed to be in his uninterested phase. Killie were pressing as they chased an equaliser but their best effort came with a shot in the 78th minute that saw Smithy save the ball at the second attempt.
Garters replaced Rustybitz (who had picked up several knocks over the afternoon) for the last ten minutes as Killie threw everything forward. Killie were running out of ideas and energy though and the pace of the game dropped quite a bit. Morris cleared one of their attacks in the 85th minute finding Sheridan but the striker was unable (or unwilling) to take the ball forward on a run. Killie had a couple of crosses but that just ended with a Grainger header that Smithy came to gather.
The tackles were getting heavier as well as we entered the closing stages with Davidson for Saints and Hay for Killie getting yellow cards. Sheridan had a couple of runs but didn't seem too eager to get forward much to the annoyance of the Saints fans. A minute into injury time and the Doc went on a good run cutting the ball back for Sheridan but he looked totally uninterested. Killie had one final spell of pressure but Morris was there to clear the danger again and the final chance came for us as a good Millar break set up Sheridan through on the keeper but Bell easily gathered the ball.
The win was probably deserved for Saints given the chances and pressure we had in the second period. There was some gloating and joy at the end at doing our bit to dump Killie especially given the desperate, physical nature of their games against us. For Saints there were some decent performances with Davidson getting my MoM ahead of Millar and Danny. Defensively we looked good and the Doc and Sammy came onto good games. But on the downside, Liam seems to be off his game and again picked up a daft booking. Sheridan too looked uninterested and you have to consider whether or not he's worth pursuing if he's not willing to graft in these types of games.Small complaints though given that we've crossed another psychological barrier.
Now it's time to dump the Bairns.
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