Matchzone | County (H)
Ross County carried three points into the international break in the most controversial fashion following a 1-0 victory at The BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park on Saturday 2nd September.
Derek McInnes made one change to the side that faced Motherwell the previous week, with Welsh full-back Tom Davies brought into the starting XI in place of Kyle Vassell who dropped out following the birth of his child in the early hours of the morning.
A strong support of more than 5,200 headed to a sun-kissed stadium, but there was little to get them on their feet throughout a quiet first 45 minutes.
Robbie Deas cleared County’s first box entry as a result of a long-throw, before back-to-back Killie corners were well-defended in front of the Chadwick Stand away support. A one-touch strike from debut boy Tom Davies was deflected narrowly past the post to cap off an even first five minutes.
Stepping back in as captain, Brad Lyons continued to impose himself in both boxes; first forcing a comfortable gather from a looping a header towards the back post, before making a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Yan Dhanda, who would subsequently have been denied by the offside flag anyway.
On the 23rd-minute, Rugby Park rose in unison to remember lifelong Killie fan Gordon Stirling who tragically passed away last month.
Shooting chances were at a premium in the opening half-hour, with goalkeepers’ gloves only being dirtied by comfortable gathers. Will Dennis was called into a first save of the afternoon, calmly dealing with a snapshot from Jack Baldwin.
With 37 minutes played, VAR was required for the first of two major controversies. A penalty was initially awarded following an apparent foul on Simon Murray just inside the box, prior to being overturned after a quick check of the monitor.
Half-chances were all that fell Killie’s way in the minutes that remained before the break. David Watson’s ambitious attempt from 25 yards was blocked, before Kyle Magennis pounced on the rebound and fired narrowly wide of the far post. David Watson and Brad Lyons went on to force saves from Ross Laidlaw before the whistle, but the teams went into half-time in search of that lethal final touch.
Both sides showed attacking promise in the opening five minutes after the restart. Matty Kennedy was quick to burst through the final third and fire a left-footed strike across the face of goal, as the killer finish continued to be elusive. At the opposite end, excellent defensive pressure from Tom Davies halted an attack led by Yan Dhanda.
The visitors nodded themselves ahead after 53 minutes. Simon Murray rose highest to connect with a free-kick swung into the box, diverting the ball into Will Dennis’ bottom left corner (0-1).
Killie pressed forward in the final half-hour, drawing the County keeper into the game. In characteristic style, Matty Kennedy drove a ball into the six-yard box, which was parried away to safety by Ross Laidlaw.
The visitors also carved half-chances which could have put the game to bed. Jordan White missed a glaring opportunity to score from 12 yards, firing over the crossbar after The Staggies recovered possession deep in the home side’s half. Yan Dhanda found the target moments later, seeing his strike deflected into the arms of Will Dennis.
In search of an equaliser, Killie threw on new striker Andy Dallas who had penned a deadline day deal with the club less than 24 hours previously.
Killie would find a breakthrough with five minutes remaining, only to be denied by one of the most controversial decisions that the Rugby Park support is likely to witness this season.
Stuart Findlay was first to meet Matty Kennedy’s wide free-kick arrowed into the box, with his perfectly timed header into the top corner coinciding with the sound of the referee’s whistle. Despite the ball having nestled in the net, Kevin Glancy awarded the hosts a penalty for a shirt pull on Brad Lyons. Celebrations were interrupted by a VAR check and gestures from three sides of the stadium. Those gestures were amplified when Ross Laidlaw knocked away Danny Armstrong’s attempt from the spot.
Deep into 7 minutes of added time, Ross Laidlaw clawed away another threatening strike on goal; a sure sign that it was simply not going to be Killie’s day.
Result: Kilmarnock 0-1 Ross County
Kilmarnock lineup: Dennis, Mayo (Wright 89), Deas, Findlay, Davies (McKenzie 66), Armstrong, Watson (Dalals 66), Lyons (Murray 89), Magennis, Kennedy, Watkins (Cameron 89)
Ross County lineup: Laidlaw, Randall, Baldwin, Brown, Turner, Dhanda, Murray, White, Nightingale, Leak, Reid
Post match reaction
A frustrated Derek McInnes shared his thoughts at full-time. You can listen to the full interview – HERE.
Check out the best shots of the day, courtesy of club photographers Jeff Holmes & Ross MacKenzie.