Matchzone: Linfield (A)
Kilmarnock concluded their pre-season camp at Windsor Park, Belfast on Saturday 8th July 2023.
A number of the club’s new signings got more minutes under their belts ahead of the first competitive match next week, while youngsters including Bobby Wales, Kian Leslie and Aaron Brown also gained valuable first-team experience.
Derek McInnes selected a similar squad to the one that lined up against Glentoran on Tuesday, with Fraser Murray and a trialist the only players brought into the starting XI.
Brad Lyons continued to captain Killie in his home nation, moving into the centre of midfield after leading the side from a full-back position earlier in the week.
Robbie Deas, Corrie Ndaba and Jack Sanders formed a three-man defence, with Fraser Murray and Danny Armstrong supporting on either touchline. Liam Polworth and David Watson joined Killie’s captain in midfield, while a trialist started alongside Innes Cameron in attack.
Killie kicked off proceedings at Northern Ireland’s national stadium, but it was the home side who were first to find the target. A lay-off free-kick on the edge of the penalty area was powerfully struck towards goal and comfortably claimed by Will Dennis.
The Killie keeper continued to impress in the opening 10 minutes, making two superb saves in quick succession as he parried both efforts away from his front post.
A bright start for the home side paid off two minutes later as Chris McKee converted from a corner, connecting on the spin to send home a right-footed strike from the edge of the six-yard box (1-0).
The hosts came close to a second when Joel Cooper collected a loose ball and squared across the box, before an outstanding challenge from the recovering Brad Lyons ended a dangerous attack.
Killie’s first half-chance of the game came after 25 minutes as Fraser Murray broke down the left wing before picking out a trialist whose stride towards goal was halted by a strong defensive challenge.
The first clear shooting opportunity followed five minutes later when Danny Armstrong’s deep in-swinging cross picked out Innes Cameron who nodded narrowly wide from around 10 yards out.
The hosts proceeded to carve the best opportunities in the remainder of the half, but a blocked shot and handful of clearances saved Will Dennis from dirtying his gloves again before the whistle.
Killie made two changes at the interval, with Kerr McInroy and Kyle Magennis called upon to join the midfield in place of Brad Lyons and the starting trialist.
Linfield were quickest off the mark in the second period, taking only a couple of minutes to rediscover the target. A rapid counter-attack across the length of the park concluded when Matthew Fitzpatrick’s 12-yard strike was again well-saved by the Killie keeper.
The Danny Armstrong to Innes Cameron link continued to appear as Killie’s main route towards an equaliser, with the 22-year-old again heading wide after meeting the winger’s cross. Killie grew into the game in the second half and came close to an equaliser from a move that originated on the opposite flank. Fraser Murray’s arrowed cross found Kyle Magennis who couldn’t keep his header on target.
An injection of pace came from the bench as Bobby Wales and Steven Warnock joined the action for the final 20 minutes. It was the aforementioned Warnock who would force the next save from Linfield’s keeper after turning his man and driving the ball towards the bottom left corner.
A young Killie side played out the final 10 minutes, which passed without major incident but gave substitutes Aaron Brown and Kian Leslie the opportunity to gain more precious first-team minutes.
Result: Linfield 1-0 Kilmarnock
Killie lineup: Dennis, Lyons (McInroy 45), Sanders, Deas, Ndaba, Armstrong (Leslie 86), Watson, Polworth (Warnock) 72, Murray (Brown 86), Trialist (Magennis 45), Cameron (Wales 72)
Linfield starting XI: Johns, Finlayson, Hall, Clarke, Millar, Shields, McClean, Scott, McKee, Fitzpatrick, Cooper.
Reflecting on the honour of captaining the team this week, Brad Lyons commented: “Coming back to my home country and walking out at the national stadium with the captain’s armband around me, it’s a huge honour; friendly or not.”
You can watch the full interview – HERE.