Matchzone: Dunfermline Reserves (A)

A superb second half performance earned Kilmarnock’s first points of the 2023/24 SPFL Reserve League campaign, following an impressive 4-1 victory against Dunfermline Athletic on Tuesday 12th September.

On the day that Scotland clashed with the Auld Enemy as part of 150th anniversary celebrations, two of the nation’s oldest clubs met at East End Park.

Alan Archibald selected a youthful team to make the journey up to Fife, with academy products forming the 16-man squad. Dunfermline also fielded a young team, accompanied by the experienced Alex Jakubiak who got a first run out in the black and white stripes after signing for the Pars a few days prior.

Killie lined up in a rough 5-2-3 formation anchored by a backline of Andrew Miller, Ruari Ellis and Ethan Brown. Ben Brannan and Ethan Mersey bombed forward from wing-back positions, while Aaron Quigg and Nathan Smith occupied the central midfield roles. Aaron Brown and Steven Warnock played on either side of Bobby Wales who pointed the attack.

Wearing their red and navy penicillin-inspired away kit, it was the visiting side who carved the first shooting opportunity of the match. Aaron Brown’s cross from the Main Stand touchline picked out Steven Warnock at the back post, but a strike with the inside of his right foot could only find the side-netting.

A cross at the opposite end of the park alerted Aiden Glavin moments later as Taylor Sutherland rose to meet a ball flashed into the box; disappointment surrounding his mistimed header was quickly waved away by the offside flag.

Glavin would be called into making his first save after 12 minutes when Liam Hoggan’s hugely deflected cross was diverted on target, with the 18-year-old displaying excellent concentration by clawing the ball away from his near post.

Having controlled large spells of possession in the opening stages, the hosts came a lick of paint away from taking advantage through their new addition on the 20-minute mark. Alex Jakubiak strided onto a through ball weaved into the right side of the penalty box, before sending his strike across the face of goal and onto the far post.

In similar fashion, Taylor Sutherland defied the offside trap to latch onto a ball over the top, which was also sent across the face of goal and wide of the far post: it remained goalless after half an hour.

Killie grew into the game and saw their own glimpses of goal appear in the 10 minutes that remained before the break. Steven Warnock recovered possession deep in the Pars half and threaded a pass through to Bobby Wales who spun away from a defender and poked the ball towards goal, forcing a pointblank save. Aaron Brown called the keeper back into action 30 seconds later after cutting inside from the left wing and striking towards goal from a tight angle, drawing a strong stop and earning a corner.

Enjoying a positive spell, it was Aaron Brown who went on to force the best save of the half. Again cutting in from the left touchline in trademark style, the young winger unleashed a powerful strike towards the far corner which was tipped around the post by Max Little.

A fine double block from Aaron Quigg inside his own box kept the sides level going into half-time.

Killie burst into life by opening the scoring less than a minute after the restart. A neat pass by Steven Warnock played Aaron Brown through on goal, with the winger showing great composure to stroke past the keeper and into the bottom left corner from just inside the box (0-1).

The visitors doubled their lead three minutes later when a ball lofted over the top – from deep inside the Killie half – unleashed Bobby Wales who outpaced the defence before showing a lethal finishing touch to beat Max Little (0-2).

Displaying heightened confidence, the two scorers combined as Killie came close to a third. A neat flick from Aaron Brown picked out Bobby Wales, whose driven 12-yard shot was blocked by the on-rushing Pars keeper.

Killie’s next opportunity to extend their lead came from the penalty spot. A short corner was played to Aaron Brown situated just inside the right edge of the box, before he was clattered by a body check from Owen Moffat. Steven Warnock stepped up but saw his penalty attempt rebound off the post.

Bobby Wales put the game out of sight with 25 minutes left to play. The Scotland U19 international collected a pass inside the box before turning and arrowing a left-footed effort into the top left corner (0-3).

The gloves of Aiden Glavin were dirtied as the game moved into the final 20 minutes: the Killie keeper was equal to a long-distance effort from Mark Beveridge, which was parried away from the far left corner.

Having impressed for Chris Burke’s Under-18s recently, Lewis Mackle and Zander Craik were called upon for the final quarter of an hour. The fresh legs of Ruben Cooper and Cole Burke were also introduced a few minutes later.

The hosts showed no signs of settling for defeat in the closing stage. A cross driven over the length of the six-yard box was met by a strike at the back post, only to be halted by Lewis Mackle’s goal line clearance. Aiden Glavin made a couple of solid saves before Dunfermline eventually found a route past the youngster. The deficit was cut by Jake Sutherland’s close-range strike with two minutes remaining (1-3).

The three-goal lead was rapidly restored by the on-form Zander Craik who killed any hopes of a comeback with his low shot from just inside the box, which nestled in the bottom left corner (1-4).

Result: Dunfermline 1-4 Kilmarnock

Dunfermline lineup: Max Little, Liam Hoggan, Miller Fenton, Sam Young, John Tod, Ewan McLeod, Paul Allan, Michael Beagley, Alex Jakubiak, Owen Moffat, Taylor Sutherland.

Kilmarnock lineup: Aiden Glavin, Ben Brannan, Ethan Mersey, Andrew Miller (Lewis Mackle 75), Ruari Ellis, Ethan Brown, Nathan Smith (Reuben Cooper 82), Aaron Quigg, Bobby Wales (Cole Burke 82), Steven Warnock, Aaron Brown (Zander Craik 75)