Match Report | Hearts (H)
Hearts got us under way at a very wet Rugby Park, and it was the visiting side who carved the first clear-cut chance. A lofted pass down the right-hand side found Shankland who fired the ball across the box to Barrie McKay who blazed a shot over the bar from around six yards out.
Hearts were the better of the sides in the opening five minutes, but Killie sparked into life shortly after, initially troubling from a Jordan Jones cross which was whipped to the back post and met by Daniel Armstrong who headed just wide of the goal.
It was a fairly slow opening 15 minutes for Killie who were limited to one clear sight at goal, with Hearts occupying the majority share of possession.
Kilmarnock grew into the game when Armstrong intercepted a loose pass from Cochrane, before driving on and providing a quality ball across the six-yard box which unfortunately escaped the grasp of the nearby Killie attack. Shortly after, another loose pass from Hearts in the middle of the park was again intercepted by Armstrong who powered down the wing and crossed to Alston, but his shot was comfortably collected by Craig Gordon. Killie became more comfortable in possession, controlling the game with a couple of good spells of play as the half-hour mark approached.
Five minutes until half-time, the Kilmarnock wingers again combined when a switch of play from Armstrong gave Jones the perfect opportunity to cut inside and send a curling effort towards goal which narrowly missed the post.
Moments before the whistle, there was appeals for a penalty from the Killie faithful after Alston charged through one-on-one with the Hearts No.1 and was brought down by a chasing defender before being able to fire off a shot, but the cries were waved away by referee Matthew MacDermid.
As the first half came to a close, Killie continued to threaten down the wings through Armstrong and Jones, but neither side were able to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes.
Kilmarnock flew out of the traps in the second half, winning a corner within a couple of minutes of the restart which galvanised the home support following the break. The team made their quick start count as Daniel Armstrong’s cross from the subsequent corner-kick resulted in a stramash inside the six-yard box, finished by Stokes who got a foot on the ball to send it home and open his goalscoring account for the season.
In the few minutes that followed, Killie piled on the pressure and gained complete control of the game as the home side continued to press forward in search of a second goal.
The pressure paid off when a high-press on the Hearts defence forced the ball back to the feet of Gordon whose slip allowed Lafferty to pounce and neatly slot the ball home to extend Killie’s lead to two.
Hearts instantly responded to going two goals behind when a lofted through ball was met by Stephen Humphrys who calmly rounded Hemming and got Hearts back in the game with half an hour to play.
As the game became end-to-end, Derek McInnes looked to the bench and added the fresh legs of Shaw and Doidge who replaced Jones and Lafferty. Shaw instantly became involved in the action when McKenzie’s pinpoint pass over the top of the defence was met by the striding Killie striker whose one-on-one effort was fired straight at Gordon in the Hearts goal.
Killie were then forced into another change when goalscorer Stokes suffered a knock during the conclusion of a Hearts attack. A like-for-like swap was made by the Killie bench as Joe Wright was welcomed onto the pitch.
Hearts applied the pressure in the final 20 minutes as they searched for an equaliser. The Killie defence remained resilient until the third minute of added time when the ball dropped to Atkinson whose sublime volley passed Hemming to secure a point for the visitors.
Browning’s Man of the Match: Ben Chrisene