Match Summary | Dundee United Reserves (H)
Kilmarnock rounded off an impressive reserve campaign with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Dundee United in the club’s final SPFL Reserve League fixture of the 2022/23 season.
Paul Sheerin and Chris Burke led their side to a fourth-place finish, in addition to guiding the club to success in the reserve cup. Academy players featured heavily throughout both competitions and it was the youngsters who were trusted to deal with the campaign finale at The BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park on Tuesday 9th May.
The Killie side was captained by a buoyant Steven Warnock following his contract extension, while Ruari Ellis returned to reserve football boosted by a call-up to represent Scotland at the Under-17 European Championship Finals later this month.
Motivated by a chance to leapfrog their opponents who occupied third spot going into the afternoon, Killie placed themselves in the ascendancy by taking the lead after just six minutes.
Aaron Quigg displayed excellent vision as he lofted a perfectly weighted pass over the United defence and straight into the path of Kian Leslie. The Killie winger carried the ball 10 yards before feeding Bobby Wales whose first-time strike nestled in the bottom corner (1-0).
Despite taking an early lead, it was the visitors who would dictate the majority of possession in the first half. Possession quickly began to translate into pressure in front of Corey Armour’s goal, with the 16-year-old making a string of important saves within the opening half-hour.
The keeper was initially called into action to comfortably claim a shot from distance as the clock ticked towards the 10-minute mark. United would find a route past the Killie No.1 moments later, only to be denied by a combination of the crossbar and a lick of paint on the Moffat Stand goal line.
A cross was half-cleared and diverted into the path of a United attacker who smashed his shot off the underside of the bar, with the ball sent crashing back down onto the far edge of the goal line. Despite a couple of hopeful appeals for a goal from those in tangerine, play continued with Killie’s lead still intact.
Corey Armour played a key role in maintaining his side’s early advantage, making two point-blank saves in the space of a few minutes. The second part of his impressive double stop came at the expense of a corner which was subsequently cleared off the line by Aaron Quigg who continued to have an impact at both ends.
As a star performer throughout the reserve campaign, it felt like only a matter of time before Steven Warnock would play his part. Killie’s captain for the day got his first sniff of goal when he strided onto a threaded pass played by Kian Leslie, before firing over the bar from 20 yards while under pressure from a covering United defender.
HALF-TIME: KILMARNOCK 1-0 DUNDEE UNITED
Determined to push for second spot in the reserve league table, United came back out firing in the second period.
The visitors almost found a leveller within a few minutes of the restart and were once again only denied by the width of the woodwork. A driven shot from the left corner of the six-yard box connected with the far post before trickling along the line and into the grateful arms of Corey Armour. However, the hosts’ fortune would come to an end shortly after.
United’s No.2 Layton Bisland eventually found a breakthrough as he controlled a lobbed pass into the box and prodded in an equaliser with 50 minutes played (1-1).
Shortly after play restarted, an ambitious long-range shot from Singh flew just over the bar and earned an applause from the Frank Beattie Stand support.
United showed confidence of their own and continued to quickly move the ball into feet around the final third. Their reward for neat play came after an hour when Craig Moore’s strike from 12 yards found the bottom corner of the Chadwick Stand goal (1-2).
Despite falling behind, Killie began to grow into the second half.
Steven Warnock’s free-kick from the right wing was met by Andrew Miller who nodded towards the side-netting. Zander Craik also came close but couldn’t fully connect with a ball squared into his path as he watched his off-balance attempt bounce wide of the post.
Bobby Wales was next to earn applause from the home support who appreciated his ambitious halfway line attempt which sailed over the bar, to the relief of the backtracking United keeper.
As the game moved into injury time, the biggest cheer of the afternoon was yet to come.
Desperate to finish the campaign with a positive result, Paul Sheerin gave his goalkeeper the nod to head for the opposition box as Steven Warnock stepped up to swing in a free-kick from the left touchline. His presence caused havoc. While the initial cross was diverted away from goal, the return ball eventually found its way back to Warnock who calmly slotted into the net (2-2).
A dramatic conclusion to the campaign was not yet complete. At full-stretch, Ethan Mersey well and truly earned his side’s point as he got himself in the way of a goalbound shot which was almost certain to hit the net.
Result: Kilmarnock 2-2 Dundee United
Kilmarnock starting XI: Armour, Spencer, Ellis (Smith 70’), Miller, Mersey, Leslie, Singh (Gilmour 79’), Quigg, Warnock, Craik (Kennedy 70’), Wales
You can watch the match highlights – HERE
Image gallery courtesy of Ross MacKenzie: