Matchzone: Ross County (A)
Kilmarnock earned a point and a clean sheet with a hard-earned draw at The Global Energy Stadium on Saturday 25th November.
Lining up against a re-energised County side under the helm of returning manager Derek Adams, two changes were made to the Killie side from their previous outing: Rory McKenzie was called upon in place of the suspended Brad Lyons, while Matty Kennedy also returned to the starting XI.
Killie set up in a rough 4-1-4-1 formation, with Marley Watkins handed responsibility of leading the line. Captain Kyle Vassell was limited to a spot on the bench as he continues to regain full fitness.
It was lively County playmaker Yan Dhanda who threatened within the opening minute, fizzing the first ball across goal but without finding any takers in the penalty area.
Killie quickly retaliated through Matty Kennedy’s first drive towards goal, but his subsequent cross also escaped attackers in the box. A lethal final touch would evade both sides on a calm but cold afternoon in The Highlands.
Following back-to-back corners and a positive spell of pressure, County’s best chance of breaking the deadlock came after quarter of an hour. A driven strike found a route past the Killie keeper, only to be halted by an excellent goal line clearance from Joe Wright.
Killie’s best chance of the game came five minutes later, via dangerman Danny Armstrong. A neat exchange with the energetic David Watson created shooting space on the right side of the penalty box. Armstrong’s solid connection looked destined to find the net, but was denied by a fine one-handed save from Ross Laidlaw.
At the opposite end, Killie’s No.1 was also called into an impressive save of his own. Yan Dhanda recovered possession deep in the opposition half before creating room for a shot which was turned around the post confidently by Will Dennis.
Rounding off a half which saw both defences come out on top, Stuart Findlay was next to make a goal line clearance for the visitors; heading Connor Randall’s effort away from target.
The second period started in similar fashion to the first, with half glimpses of goal all that would appear in either box. Liam Donnelly’s solid block stopped County’s first attempt of the half following a succession of corners for the hosts.
Backed by a strong travelling support, Killie pressed forward in search of their own breakthrough. Robbie Deas lofted in a cross which rose over bodies in the penalty area. Matty Kennedy then found the side-netting after connecting with Danny Armstrong’s deep ball into the box as the away side honed in on the target.
Another fine piece of defending would be a reflection of the afternoon in Dingwall. With just over 20 minutes to play, Stuart Findlay denied Simon Murray with a tremendous last-ditch tackle as the striker prepared to unleash a close-range strike.
Well worthy of a point, Killie created half-chances of their own in the final 10 minutes. Liam Donnelly’s snapshot volley from 20 yards rose over the target, preceding a Joe Wright header which escaped the far post after he connected with Danny Armstrong’s whipped cross to the back post.
Speaking at full-time, Derek McInnes praised his team for “working extremely hard for their point.” You can listen to the manager’s comments– HERE.
Ross County lineup: Laidlaw, Nightingale, Baldwin, Leak, Brown, Allardice, Randall (Samuel 83), Purrington, Dhanda (Turner 90), Murray, Sims (White 76).
Kilmarnock lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Wright, Findlay, Deas, Armstrong, Watson, Donnelly, McKenzie (Vassell 70), Kennedy (Ndaba 90), Watkins (Dallas 87).