Matchzone: Dunfermline Athletic (A)

Kilmarnock earned a solid 2-0 win against a lively Dunfermline Athletic side in the club’s opening away fixture of the 2023/24 campaign at East End Park on Saturday 22nd July.

The visitors moved three points closer to progressing from their Viaplay League Cup group, while also getting another valuable 90 minutes in the engine ahead of the league opener in two weeks time.

The starting XI

Stuart Findlay and Lewis Mayo made their first starts since returning to the club, slotting into the backline alongside Robbie Deas and Corrie Ndaba. Brad Lyons continued to captain the side from the heart of midfield where he was accompanied by David Watson. Danny Armstrong and Matty Kennedy supported a front two of Fraser Murray and Innes Cameron from the wings. New signing Marley Watkins landed a place on the bench, having penned a deal with the club on Friday evening.

Match summary

Roadworks around East End Park added a few minutes onto the first away journey of the season, but the travelling support didn’t have to wait around long to see their team race into the lead.

Starting where he left off against Annan Athletic on matchday one, Fraser Murray quickly found himself back at the centre of attention, and in the centre of the six-yard box where he would open the scoring within the first five minutes. Superb wing play preceded a fine cutback from Corrie Ndaba which saw the full-back pick out Killie’s No.15 who calmly converted from close range.

Murray came close to a quickfire double as he connected with a Danny Armstrong cross, narrowly glancing a header past the post. Following a commanding first ten minutes from Derek McInnes’ side, the hosts grew into the game and began to enjoy positive spells of possession of their own.

Gaining confidence, the visitors continued to search for the all-important second goal, with the aforementioned Armstrong and Murray both trying ambitious strikes from range.

Dunfermline were quick to retaliate through a speculative effort of their own. New Kilmarnock No.1 Will Dennis was called into action for the first time as he backtracked to comfortably gather Andrew Tod’s 35-yard attempt.

The Pars piled on pressure in the final five minutes before the break, with a flashpoint sparking appeals for a red card from the home support. Fraser Murray’s overemphatic attempt to recover possession resulted in a late challenge, earning a booking which would ultimately see the Killie man rested for the second half.

Dunfermline carved the best opportunity in the minutes that remained before the whistle as Aaron Comrie clipped the top of the crossbar through a header, while under defensive pressure from Matty Kennedy.

The opening 10 minutes of the second period saw both teams create half-chances, with Killie first to go close to finding the net. An uncharacteristic header from Danny Armstrong crept past the far post, after the winger connected with a cross from the opposite flank. At the other end, Will Dennis done well to block Andrew Tod’s strike after a quick turn inside the box, before defensive pressure from Corrie Ndaba smothered the rebound.

Brad Lyons was next to catch a glimpse of goal with an hour on the clock as a corner was glanced towards the back post, but rose too high for the stand in Killie captain to divert on target.

As the game moved into the final half-hour, Will Dennis was forced to earn every bit of his second clean sheet in as many games. Andrew Tod strided towards the Killie box and fired a powerful right-footed shot towards the bottom right corner, before the full-stretch ‘keeper produced the save of the match to parry away the 63rd minute effort.

The home side started to dictate possession as they stepped up their search for an equaliser, triggering activity on the visiting bench. Liam Polworth, Kyle Vassell and debutant Marley Watkins were called upon to change the tempo.

It was Killie talisman Kyle Vassell who would secure the points as he made a timely return to action. After accepting a pass on the left side of the box, the No.9 burst the net with a rocket of a strike 12 yards from goal to end Dunfermline’s impressive 24-game unbeaten streak at home.

Result: Dunfermline Athletic 0-2 Kilmarnock

Dunfermline lineup: Mehmet, Fisher, Benedictus (Bree 88), Otoo, Hamilton (Allan 45), Comrie, Tod (Sutherland 85), Chalmers, Edwards, Wighton, Lewis McCann.

Killie lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Deas, Findlay, Ndaba, Armstrong (Watkins 66), Kennedy, Watson, Lyons (Polworth 67), Cameron (Vassell 66), Murray (Magennis 45).

Attendance: 2784

Post-match reaction

Speaking at full-time, Derek McInnes commented: “We’re picking a team today on the basis of trying to win a cup tie, but also being mindful that we need to get boys minutes. I’m still trying to get those kind of relationships and a rhythm going, but while we’re working towards that it’s not a bad habit to be winning games and keeping clean sheets.”

You can listen to the full interview – HERE.