Under-18s secure top three finish
Kilmarnock Under-18s narrowly missed out on being crowned league champions after battling to the very last minute of a league decider against St Johnstone at the BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park on Friday 26th May 2023.
The hosts entered the final fixture of the season in second spot, with only goal difference separating Craig Clark’s side from their opponents St Johnstone.
In addition to forming the nucleus of Killie’s SPFL Reserve Cup winning squad, the academy youngsters also secured a top three finish in the CAS Performance Under-18s League.
60-second match summary
Harvey Gilmour kicked off what was to be a very evenly contested clash in East Ayrshire.
Despite only requiring a draw to hold their position at the top of the table, St Johnstone were first to show attacking intent, but without working Corey Armour in the Killie goal for the opening half-hour. A snapshot from 12 yards out skipped past the home side’s goal, before Andrew Miller made a fine block to deny the visitors’ first goalbound shot of the game.
Killie were quick to respond through the lively Kian Leslie. The winger followed an impressive solo run and delivery by calling the Saints keeper into action through his own 20-yard shot on target.
Both keepers had got a feel of the ball in the early stages, but it took until the 30-minute mark for one of them to be truly tested.
Corey Armour came to his side’s rescue as he got down to claim a penalty struck towards his bottom corner, after an adjudged handball inside the box.
Keen to capitalise, Bobby Wales was quick to try his luck at the opposite end as he swivelled and hit the target from an ambitious angle.
The second half started similarly to the first, with both sides pressing forward without causing either opposition keeper any serious threat from open play. It would take until just before the hour mark for the deadlock to be broken. The visitors regained possession in the Killie half before dangerously breaking towards goal and finding a route past the 16-year-old Corey Armour (0-1).
A Killie response came five minutes later. Zander Craik bundled Kian Leslie’s corner over the line, with play continuing before discussions between the referee and linesman resulted in the title race being reignited (1-1).
The hosts threw everything at their opponents in the final 20 minutes. Zander Craik’s snapshot over the bar was followed by Sonny Aluko’s strike which fell on the wrong side of the post. Killie’s best chance of finding a winner came through the aforementioned Aluko. The striker latched onto a cross and nodded towards goal, but saw his attempt claimed by the grateful arms of the Saints keeper.
Backed by a strong Moffat Stand support, the Ayrshire side threw numbers forward and centre-back Ruari Ellis was given the signal to join the attack. Deep into the 9 minutes of stoppage time, a Saints counter-attack killed any chances of a Rugby park title party for the Killie youngsters (1-2).
Result: Kilmarnock 1-2 St Johnstone
Kilmarnock lineup: Armour, Spencer, Miller, Ellis, Mersey, Leslie, Gilmour (Aluko 64), Quigg, Smith (Campbell 75), Kennedy (Bowie 75), Wales (Craik 45)
Check out the image gallery below, thanks to club photographers Jeff Holmes & Ross MacKenzie: