Matchzone: Raith Rovers (H)
Kilmarnock’s quest to secure progression to the last-16 of the Viaplay League Cup will roll onto the final round of group stage fixtures following a 2-2 draw at home to Raith Rovers on Wednesday 26th July.
Innes Cameron and Stuart Findlay were on the scoresheet, but it was the visitors who secured a bonus point via a 5-4 shootout win on a wet July evening at Rugby Park.
The manager made one change from the side that defeated Dunfermline Athletic at the weekend, with Liam Polworth called upon in place of Robbie Deas as Killie moved to a three-man defence.
Young full-back Tom Davies landed a place on the bench having joined on a season-long loan from Cardiff City earlier in the day, while Marley Watkins made his home debut as a second half substitute.
Carrying momentum from a positive start to the League Cup campaign, Killie were first to threaten in the opening stage. It took less than 30 seconds for Fraser Murray to show attacking intent, with his powerful 25-yard strike forcing a solid block moments after the first whistle of the evening.
Following an encouraging opening five minutes, Rovers gradually grew into the game before enjoying a period of positive possession. Jamie Gullan was first to go close for the away side, connecting with a deep cross from the right touchline but unable to make strong enough contact to divert the ball on target.
The physical presence of Innes Cameron provided Killie’s main attacking outlet throughout a quiet first half-hour, allowing the lively Matty Kennedy to feed off his knockdowns. At the opposite end, Rovers continued to display intent of their own. Stuart Findlay was called into a handful of clearances and a smart block to deny a threatening strike from Lewis Vaughan.
Killie honed in on the target as Liam Polworth’s driven 25-yard strike skipped past the post: the closest either team came to finding a breakthrough in the opening 40 minutes. However, the deadlock would be broken before the break.
Scorer in Killie’s previous two fixtures, Fraser Murray turned provider as he whipped a cross over the six-yard box towards the full-stretch Innes Cameron who volleyed home from close range (1-0).
The remaining three minutes before the break would see both keepers make impressive saves. Cameron came close to a quickfire double, but saw a powerful left-footed strike remarkably stopped by Kevin Dabrowski in the Chadwick Stand goal. At the Moffat Stand, Will Dennis got down well to keep out a goalbound strike by Callum Smith to maintain Killie’s lead at the interval.
In contrast to the first half, it was the visitors who were fastest out of the blocks in the second period. Dylan Easton found an equaliser moments after the restart through a right-footed strike which found the far bottom corner from just inside the box (1-1).
Lifted in confidence, Rovers went on to carve the best opportunities in the 20 minutes that followed, with Dylan Easton and Josh Mullin firing narrowly past either post before the visitors pulled in front. Liam Dick sent a rebound shot past Will Dennis from close range after a strong initial save from the young No.1 (1-2).
Rovers continued to threaten, forcing Will Dennis into a fine double save to keep his team in sight, but the hosts would find the next route to goal with 10 minutes remaining. On his return to Rugby Park, Stuart Findlay stabbed home an equaliser from close range following Danny Armstrong’s wide free-kick.
Level at full-time, Kevin Dabrowski saved twice in the shootout as Raith Rovers secured the bonus point.
Result: Kilmarnock 2-2 Raith Rovers (4-5 on penalties)
Killie lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Findlay, Ndaba, Armstrong, Watson, Lyons (Magennis 68), Polworth, Kennedy, Murray (Watkins 68), Cameron
You can listen to the manager’s post-match interview – HERE.
Check out the image gallery, courtesy of club photographers Ross Mackenzie and Jeff Holmes.