in #KillieStories May 14, 2017
Alan Cochrane @ Rugby Park
Despite losing a goal with twenty minutes left, and giving the noisy home support a slightly nervous end to the match, this was an accomplished Killie performance which pushed us back up to seventh in the league, and more importantly, ensured top flight status for next season. The stuttering performance of last week was quickly left behind, and before a quarter of the game had passed, Kilmarnock had settled into the game and gone a goal ahead.
And yet the first chance fell to the visitors. An Ajer attempted clearance with only a couple of minutes gone rebounded to Alex Fisher, but after running in on goal he fluffed his lines and shot wide. The action was quickly at the other end though, and Adam Frizzell, who had an outstanding afternoon, set Steven Smith off up the left wing, only for his cross to be cut out by the Inverness defence. In the seventeenth minute however, Killie took the lead. Ryan Essen couldn't hold on to a long ball into the danger area, Kilmarnock worked it back to Sean Longstaff on the edge of the box, and he fairly thrashed it into the net to give the home side the lead.
Kilmarnock dominated the rest of the half, and were unfortunate not to go further ahead. Jordan Jones showed good control before running in on goal, but shot weakly wide; Longstaff shot wide to finish another of the rehearsed corner routines; an incisive Jones run and cut-back was scrambled away by the Caley defence; a sweeping Dicker to Jones to Frizzell move ended with a shot just wide of goal, and Longstaff ended the first period with a raking shot which was just off target.
ICT manager Richie Foran brought on Iain Vigurs for Jake Mulraney for the second half as he tried to get something from the game for the visitors, but it was Killie that continued to dominate. Frizzell and Longstaff again tormented the Inverness defence, and Jordan Jones was unlucky when a low cross/shot neither found the net, nor a tap in from the onrushing Killie front men. The second goal came after 56 minutes however. Jordan Jones picked up the ball in the middle of the park, outran the Caley defence, and calmly pushed his shot past Ryan Esson to double Kilmarnock’s lead.
That should have been that, but with twenty minutes left the Kilmarnock defence switched off, Alex Fisher was unmarked as he picked up a through ball, and gave Jamie MacDonald no chance as he brought Inverness back into the game. Four minutes later MacDonald had to save well from David Raven as he tried to curl a shot inside the keeper’s left hand post, but Kilmarnock then settled and saw the job out, to send the relieved support home happy.
Inverness manager Richie Foran was understandably despondent at the end, as staying in the top flight is no longer in his own hands, but Lee McCulloch was taking “loads” of satisfaction from Killie’s victory. He also found it pleasing to get a win at home, after all the talk there has been about Kilmarnock’s form at Rugby Park. “Now we are safe [from a play-off place] we can enjoy it, but we are looking forward to a tough game on Tuesday. It's a good conclusion to our 25th consecutive season in the top division.” The gaffer had a big smile on his face as he said that! When asked about certain players, if he gave special mention to Jordan Jones and Adam Frizzell, he thought that everyone had put in a great performance. “After all his time out [through injury], “Wee Frizz” was great today, and although he can be frustrating, Jordan Jones can go to any level that he wants to go to. We've two hard games coming up, but there's no reason that we can't be best of the rest”.
Lee was then pushed about his own position at the club. “I expect a discussion will now take place [with the directors], but I don't yet know when. I expect that it will be better to have that sooner rather than later.”
Kilmarnock: MacDonald, Ajer, Jones, Hendrie, Dicker, Smith, Longstaff, Sammon, Frizzell, Kiltie (McKenzie), Wilson
ICT: Eason, Raven, Warren, Draper (Cole), W McKay, Mulraney, (Vigurs), Tansey, Fisher,Laing, B McKay, Anier
Referee: John Beaton