Ladbrokes Premiership



by Frank Cassidy

WHAT a difference a week makes.

The same defence that earned Killie a deserved point at Celtic Park capitulated and lost five goals at home to Partick Thistle.

In a performance described by manager Gary Locke as 'embarrassing', Killie leaked two goals in the opening 15 minutes, despite opening the match quite brightly.

They forced a corner with less than two minutes played, which was fired in low by Kallum Higginbotham, but Conrad Balatoni's shot was well over.

Then Josh Magennis won a battle for possession on the edge of the box but had no room for manoeuvre and the danger was swept up.

Those two half-chances missed were to prove crucial as Thistle took the lead after a passing move left Kris Doolan with the time and space to pick his spot. Just a goal down, Killie tried to get back into the match and, taking advantage of getting the break of the ball, Steven Smith tried a shot from distance, but it lacked power.

Yet again, Killie were shown how to be more clinical in front of goal when Doolan ran in unchallenged to meet a free kick and head home from a tight angle.

Many fans thought it was game over, but to their credit, the Rugby Park side fought back and a cross into the box from Balatoni was expertly converted by Magennis with a hooked shot.

Killie were presented with another chance when Mark O'Hara was brought down just as he was about to go clear, but the resultant free-kick by Higginbotham was sent wildly over - much to the delight of the travelling support.

They had even more to cheer in 52 minutes when the Killie defence was posted missing and Gary Fraser restored the two-goal deficit.

In what was turning into one-way traffic, ex-Killie midfielder Robbie Muirhead, currently on loan to Thistle from Dundee United, scored a contender for goal of the season.

Collecting the ball outside the Killie box, he barely broke stride and fired in a shot which gave Jamie MacDonald no chance and it was 4-1.

If there are any positives to be taken out of Saturday's game, it was the refusal to give up on the part of some of the home players.

Captain Mark Connolly showed some fighting spirit when his determination led to him heading Killie's second from close range after a Smith free-kick.

Despite his attitude, an unlikely comeback remained just that and a fifth goal for the visitors, Muirhead's second, rounded off the scoring at 5-2 to Partick just two minutes later.

It might have been 6-2 had Liam Lindsay's header found the net in the closing stages, but if hit the post and scrambled away by Killie.

This was the third time this season that Kilmarnock have conceded four goals or more at home and manage Locke had no doubts over the reason.

He said: "We did not do the ugly side of this game, and that is why we got beat. It was embarrassing at times, and the players know that.

"It was the same team that did so well at Parkhead the previous week, barring one change. They got plaudits last week, but will get stick this time and rightly so.

"I told the players that they can't just turn up one week out of three, they have to turn up every week because this is a tough league.

"As a manager, it is so frustrating, especially at home. To lose five goals in any game is an embarrassment."

KILMARNOCK: MacDonald; Smith, Connolly, Robinson, Higginbotham (Carrick 69), O'Hara, Obadeyi (Boyd 55),; McHattie (Slater 55), Kiltie, Balatoni, Magennis.

Subs not used: Ridgers (g/k), Hamill, Barbour, Findlay.

STARMAN - Balatoni - 3pts, Magennis - 2pts, O'Hara- 1pt.