by Frank Cassidy

KILMARNOCK manager Gary Locke said it was like watching two different teams on Saturday after his side came agonisingly close to grabbing a point at Inverness.

They had been early with the Christmas gifts, presenting the home side with two first half goals which looked as if they had wrapped up the points.

The first involved two players caught in two minds, Kevin McHattie and Conrad Balatoni, who paid for a moment's hesitation, and Iain Vigurs pounced to open the scoring.

He doubled the lead on the half-hour when a dummy by Liam Polworth gave Vigurs time and space to beat a helpless Jamie MacDonald.

But Killie rallied in the second half, and a Mark Connolly goal gave them hope and installed some jitters in the home defence in the closing stages.

Locke said: "In the second half we did a lot better, competed better, but the opening goal summed up our first half performance. We could quite easily have dealt with the situation, but we gave Inverness a goal start, then lost another, before showing a bit of character after the break."

A double half-time substitution, Dale Carrick and Greg Kiltie replacing Tope Obadeyi and Craig Slater, helped vitalise he visitors and they created numerous chances.

An intervention by keeper Williams nicked the ball off Kris Boyd after an excellent Mark O'Hara cross, before Kiltie was denied by a last-gasp tackle following a good run and lay-off from Josh Magennis.

Jamie Hamill then rattled a shot off a defender, claiming hand-ball but the referee waved play on.

They cracked eventually, after Connolly's determination forced a corner in 86 minutes, and it was the skipper who netted after Balatoni nodded it down.

Connolly's resolve was illustrated in the last minute when Inverness hit Killie on the break, until his superb tackle broke up the move.

His frustration was evident after the match, when he said that Inverness hadn't been made to work for their opening goal.

"We are not forcing teams to break us down, we are not making it hard for them - we are making it hard for ourselves, and easy for them. It took until half time, for the manager and Lee McCulloch to have a go at us, and all of a sudden there was a reaction, but it was too little too late.

"You could see the difference in the second half, when we went right up against them, and it worked," Connolly added.

But that kind of commitment needs to be applied for the entire match, as the side will not get away with just playing for 45 minutes, according to Locke.

He said: "I am delighted to have Mark back in the team, but we need 11 players playing to their potential. We need to make sure we turn up for 90 minutes because, in this league, teams can beat each other and you have to be switched on all the time.

KILMARNOCK: MacDonald, Smith, Connolly, Balatoni, McHattie, Hamill (Robinson 81), O'Hara, Obadeyi (Carrick 45), Slater (Kiltie 45), Boyd, Magennis.

Unused subs: Ridgers (g/k), Barbour, Westlake, Ashcroft.


Mark Connolly 3 pts

Mark O'Hara 2 pts

Jamie Hamill 1 pts

Killie star man: Connolly-3pts, O'Hara-2pts, Hamill-1pt