Matchzone: Glentoran (A)
Kilmarnock’s first-team squad got a valuable 90 minutes in their legs during the club’s opening pre-season warm-up match against Glentoran at The Oval on Tuesday 4th July 2023.
The visiting support travelled over to Belfast to gain a first glimpse at new signings including Will Dennis and Corrie Ndaba, while the 2023/24 home kit was also given a first outing.
Speaking ahead of the match, Derek McInnes said: “I think it’s important that you try to get at least a couple of good level opponents before you play your first competitive game. Glentoran and Linfield are involved in Europe; they are both big clubs and will give us a real test.
“Developing player understanding and forming working relationships mainly happens on the pitch against good opponents, and that’s exactly what we’ll get here.
“Whether we get positive results or not, it’s not the most important thing. It’s a case of working towards being ready for the first game against Annan.”
Derek McInnes selected a strong starting lineup for the first of two pre-season friendlies in Belfast, with recent additions Robbie Deas and Kyle Magennis amongst those given a first opportunity to impress their new management team.
Brad Lyons was handed the honour of captaining Killie in his home country, starting on the right of a back four anchored by Jack Sanders and Robbie Deas, with Corrie Ndaba occupying the left full-back position.
It was the returning Matty Kennedy who was first to catch the eye, forcing a solid save from a well-struck free-kick 25 yards from goal. The winger was at the heart of Killie’s attack five minutes later, when a neatly threaded ball through the defence fed Innes Cameron who forced a comfortable second save of the game from Aaron McCarey.
Overhead air traffic provided the off-pitch entertainment, and it was action on the wings that attracted attention on the park. Right winger Danny Armstrong was next to try his luck, firing over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.
Following a bright start from the visitors in the first quarter of an hour, Glentoran retaliated with a positive spell of possession, but without troubling the new Killie keeper, Will Dennis. A couple of dangerous balls were flashed across the box before being well-cleared by the visiting defence.
Killie continued to hone in on the target for the remainder of the half. A trademark cut inside from the right touchline preceded Danny Armstrong’s curling strike into the arms of Aaron McCarey.
A fine pass from Matty Kennedy was met by Kyle Magennis who forced another block from the Glentoran No.1 after shooting from a tight angle with 35 minutes on the clock: the final save of a calm and composed first half.
The visitors were quickest off the mark in the second period, coming close to breaking the deadlock when Brad Lyons glanced narrowly wide after rising to connect with Matty Kennedy’s corner a couple of minutes after the restart. An Innes Cameron header from around 10 yards out came even closer, forcing the best save of the game from a full-stretched ‘keeper five minutes later.
It was far from one-way traffic, with Jack Sanders called into a superb challenge to halt a dangerous solo drive towards the penalty area. A short spell of Glentoran pressure paid off when Junior progressed into the box and fired past Will Dennis with 20 minutes to play (1-0).
Both sides pressed forward in the final stage, with clear-cut shooting opportunities few and far between. On an evening that the result will be overlooked, Killie can feel slightly aggrieved to leave The Oval with less than a draw.
Result: Glentoran 1-0 Kilmarnock
Killie lineup: Dennis, Ndaba (Trialist 85), Sanders, Deas, Armstrong (Warnock 78), Watson, Magennis (Murray 65), Polworth, Lyons, Kennedy (Wales 78), Cameron (Trialist 78).
Glentoran starting XI: McCarey, Wightman, Singleton, McCullough, Wilson, Kelly, Locke, McGinn, McCartan, McMenamin, Trialist.
Speaking at full-time, Derek McInnes said: “It served its purpose. Obviously, nobody wants to lose games but I thought we were a bit unlucky with the goal and defended well throughout. We had good opportunities and just lacked that sharpness that you maybe expect at this stage of the season.
“We’re putting a lot of work into them with the accelerated pressure on us to be ready for the Annan game. We’re trying to make sure we get the workload right but also get that sharpness from games.
“They’ll have gained a lot from that today. We had five of our new signings playing and it’s all about integration and trying to get that understanding. They’ll feel tired tonight, and tomorrow when they wake up, but they’ll feel better mentally from that amount of work against a really good opponent.
“Ideally, you want to try and win these games but it’s not the most important thing. Saturday gives us another opportunity to go and build up that fitness and understanding.”
You can listen to the full interview – HERE