Matchzone: Livingston (H)
Kilmarnock bounced back into action after the international break with a solid 3-1 victory against Livingston on Saturday 21st October.
Derek McInnes cited the enthusiasm of young supporters at an open training session as having ‘a positive impact’ on pre-match preparation; it certainly showed throughout an impressive 90-minute display.
Killie were also spurred on by a squad of club legends who joined the action for Rugby Park’s 2023/24 Former Players’ day.
The manager made two changes from the team that faced Celtic a fortnight ago, with Marley Watkins returning to the team alongside Liam Polworth who made his first start of the league campaign.
A show of togetherness preceded the referee’s whistle as both sides united in support of Show Racism the Red Card.
Livingston started brightly in the opening ten minutes, winning back-to-back corners but without troubling Will Dennis in the Killie goal. Joel Nouble came closest to calling the keeper into action when he glanced a header narrowly wide of the far post.
The home side were quick to display their own aerial threat. Stuart Findlay rose highest to meet a trademark long-throw from David Watson, forcing the keeper into a comfortable gather.
After an early sighter, Killie continue to throw balls into the box as they honed in on Shamal George’s goal. A Danny Armstrong free-kick from the edge of the box narrowly missed Killie shirts and earned a corner, before Joe Wright also saw a threatening cross cleared by the Livingston defence.
It was a ball from the left wing which resulted in the opener. Corrie Ndaba’s cross bypassed the defence, and a swipe from David Watson, before finding its way to Danny Armstrong who cooly smashed home at the back post (1-0).
Armstrong came close to a quick-fire double moments later when the winger drove a shot across goal, only to be denied by a fine one-handed save from the full-stretch Shamal George.
Livingston enjoyed a positive spell of possession as the half-hour mark approached, but it was the hosts who created greater shooting opportunities. Kyle Vassell saw a 25-yard strike spin off target, followed by a Liam Polworth effort from similar range which was deflected over the bar.
The visitors drew level after 35 minutes, with their first shot on target. Craig Napier pointed to the penalty spot after judging that Mo Sangare had been upended inside the box: Sean Kelly converted from 12 yards (1-1).
Killie would go into half-time with a deserved lead, thanks to captain Kyle Vassell. The number 9 fought off pressure from the Livi defence to get his head on a wide free-kick from Danny Armstrong, which was nodded into the bottom corner three minutes before the break (2-1).
Play restarted with Derek McInnes’ side playing towards the Chadwick Stand. High on confidence, Brad Lyons was first to try his luck after the interval – sending an ambitious 30-yard shot just wide of the far post. Marley Watkins went even closer to finding the target moments later through a superb attempt from the edge of the box.
The hosts looked to have wrapped up the points with half an hour remaining. A whipped ball from David Watson picked out Kyle Vassell who headed home at the front post, seconds after clipping the crossbar from a Danny Armstrong cross (3-1).
It was no surprise that the Rugby Park side’s best chance of a fourth also came via the aerial route. Marley Watkins saw a downward header saved on the line with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
David Martindale’s team came closest to pulling one back in the dying minutes. A dangerous ball driven over the six-yard box was eventually diverted out for a goal kick, before Killie carefully managed the remaining five minutes of stoppage time.
Post match reaction
Speaking at full-time, Derek McInnes emphasised the importance of getting back to winning ways. You can listen to the full interview – HERE.
Result: Kilmarnock 3-1 Livingston
Kilmarnock lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Findlay, Wright, Ndaba, Armstrong (McKenzie 80), Lyons, Watson (Donnelly 80), Polworth (Dallas 90), Watkins, Vassell (Kennedy 80)
Livingston lineup: George, Devlin, Pittman (Bradley 64), Anderson (Lloyd-McGoldrick 79), MacKay (Guthrie 58), Holt (Montano 58), Nouble, Sangare (Shinnie 79), De-Lucas, Kelly, Penrice
James Frew Man of the Match: Kyle Vassell