Matchzone: Motherwell (A)
Kilmarnock suffered their first defeat of the 2023/24 campaign in the harshest of manners as a 98th minute strike from Harry Paton earned the Fir Park side all three points on Saturday 26th August.
Derek McInnes was forced into making one change to the side that romped to victory against Celtic in the previous outing, with Corrie Ndaba dropping out the team due to an injury suffered in the final stage of the cup tie. Kyle Vassell replaced the Irish defender in the starting XI, leading the side out of the tunnel as captain for the first time.
In a game of two halves, Killie dominated the first 45 minutes. Danny Armstrong encapsulated Killie’s confidence as he broke into the Motherwell box and forced a solid block from the defence with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The returning Kyle Vassell also grasped an early sighter, swiveling and firing wide of the post from distance; earning applause from a 1300 strong travelling support.
A lively start from the visitors paid off after 12 minutes. Bagging his second goal in as many games, Marley Watkins swanned in at the back post to connect with Danny Armstrong’s cross which he nodded beyond the grasp of Liam Kelly (0-1).
Both sets of supporters united on the 23rd minute in tribute to lifelong Killie supporter Gordon Stirling who tragically passed away the previous week.
Approaching the half-hour mark, Kyle Vassell came close to doubling Killie’s lead after glancing David Watson’s pinpoint cross narrowly wide. At the opposite end, Will Dennis was called into action for the first time, making a solid block to deny Blair Spittal’s strike driven towards his near post.
It was the visitors who would carve the best opportunity before the break. In similar style to Marley Watkins’ opener, Stuart Findlay rose to meet a cross from the right wing before seeing his header saved by the Well No.1 from point-blank range.
Killie started brightly in the opening period of the second half, applying pressure around the box and forcing the hosts into a couple of solid blocks. Growing into the game, ‘Well began to spot glimpses of goal: Theo Bair shot over the bar after a cut-back was diverted into the penalty area as the Steelmen fired a warning signal.
The leveler would come with half an hour remaining. A driven cross from the right wing cut over the Killie box and was eventually claimed by Dan Casey who converted at the back post (1-1).
Referee Chris Graham awarded the hosts a perfect opportunity to take the lead with 13 minutes of regulation time remaining. Goalscorer Dan Casey drew a late challenge from Danny Armstrong on the edge of the penalty area, before a lengthy VAR check judged that the offence had taken place inside the box. Callum Slattery stepped up from 12 yards, but saw his low effort parried away from the bottom corner by the on-form Will Dennis.
Killie’s best sight of a winner came moments before injury time. Kyle Vassell concluded a well-worked move towards the left side of the box by directing his attempt over the bar from around 12 yards.
An impressive unbeaten run would end deep into the 7 plus minutes of added time. Harry Paton stepped onto Blair Spittal’s cutback from the byline, before finding the bottom corner with the final kick of the game (2-1).
Result: Motherwell 2-1 Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Deas, Findlay, Armstrong (McKenzie 80), Watson, Lyons, Magennis, Kennedy, Watkins, Vassell (Cameron 90).
Kelly, McGinn, Mugabi, Casey, O’Donnell, Slattery, Miller, Spittal, Spencer, Efford (Paton 45), Bair.
You can listen to the manager’s post-match interview – HERE.
Check out the best shots of the day, courtesy of club photographers Ross MacKenzie and Jeff Holmes.