Club crowned SPFL Reserve Cup winners
Kilmarnock were crowned champions of the cinch SPFL Reserve Cup 2023 following an impressive 7-0 win against a young Dunfermline Athletic side in the final of the competition.
Paul Sheerin led his team to 5 wins out of a possible 7 during the tournament, with Under-18s players forming the nucleus of a squad which scored 29 goals throughout the campaign.
Almost 1000 supporters were in attendance as the Ayrshire side lifted the trophy under the Rugby Park floodlights on Tuesday 2nd May.
The hosts fielded a starting XI which featured a mix of youth and experience, with the likes of Liam Polworth, Brad Lyons and Fraser Murray called upon to guide teenagers including Jon Craig and Killie captain for the evening, Kirk McKnight.
Fresh from lifting the Scottish League One title, the Pars travelled to Rugby Park in high hopes of getting their hands on a second piece of silverware in the space of just three days.
Killie kicked off proceedings and it was 19-year-old Steven Warnock who was first to try his luck, sending a long-distance strike wide of the far post with just three minutes on the clock as the hosts made their intentions clear in the early stage. The Pars retaliated through Andrew Tod who also saw a shot slide past the post, with neither goalkeeper called into action for the first quarter of an hour.
Brad Lyons forced the first save of the game as he stung the hands of Max Little in the Dunfermline goal through a strike from the edge of the box. The Pars ‘keeper was left little chance moments later when a cut-back towards the penalty spot picked out Fraser Murray who calmly slotted home to open the scoring (1-0).
Ten minutes after their first, Killie doubled the lead through 17-year-old Bobby Wales. A powerful cross from the right wing was met by the Scotland youth international who strided into the six-yard-box and converted from close range (2-0).
The impressive Bobby Wales grabbed his second of the game with five minutes left to play in the first half, when a superb pass from Kerr McInroy unleashed the young forward who arrowed his shot into the far bottom corner (3-0).
Killie’s first change of the match came at the break, with former Pars loanee Liam Polworth replaced by Under-18s winger Kian Leslie who would have a major impact on the second half.
The tie was put well out of reach after 56 minutes when Steven Warnock took possession of the ball and perfectly placed a 16-yard strike into the top corner to add a fourth (4-0).
Kian Leslie was the provider as Fraser Murray doubled his personal tally for the evening from similar range to his first effort; a well-placed finish from just inside the box (5-0).
It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Killie’s Zach Hemming was called upon to safeguard his clean sheet. With 10 minutes to play, the on-loan Middlesbrough ‘keeper made two fine saves in the space of 60 seconds to deny Ewan McLeod and Andrew Tod, which earned an ovation from the home support.
Action in front of the Moffat Stand goal was far from over and the ever-energetic Steven Warnock scored his superb second from 20 yards as the game moved towards the final five minutes (6-0).
A fine evening for Paul Sheerin and his coaching team was rounded off in injury time when two Under-18s regulars combined to score the seventh. As the referee began to draw breath for the final whistle, neat play from Kian Leslie saw him cut inside from the right touchline before squaring to Aaron Quigg who almost burst the net from close range (7-0).
Kilmarnock starting XI: Zach Hemming: Kirk McKnight (c), Jon Craig, Brad Lyons (Shaun Kennedy 70), Jack Sanders, Jeriel Dorsett, Fraser Murray (Aaron Quigg 70), Liam Polworth (Kian Leslie 45), Bobby Wales (Zander Craik 60), Steven Warnock, Kerr McInroy
Scorers: Murray (16, 64), Wales (27, 40), Warnock (56, 84), Quigg (90+2)
Dunfermline starting XI: Max Little: Liam Hoggan, Jake Rennie (Freddie Rowe 73), Sam Young, Miller Fenton (c), Ewan McLeod, Stuart McDowell, Michael Beagley (Kian McHale 73, Taylor Sutherland, Andrew Tod, Jake Sutherland (Kieran Ross 74)
Post-match: First-team coach Paul Sheerin spoke alongside youngsters Kirk McKnight and Bobby Wales following the cup success. You can listen to the interview – HERE.