Kilmarnock moved a huge step closer to safety in the Ladbrokes Premiership after a comfortable 2-0 win over Hamilton.
Nothing was decided by this result, other than the fact that Kilmarnock, who are now 13 points clear of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, can no longer finish bottom of the table.
“That’s good,” said interim manager Lee McCulloch. “I haven’t looked at the table so I don’t know how much we need to do. It’s still a game at a time and we aren’t out of the woods yet.
“Hamilton hit the post early due to one of our mistakes but I think we deserved it as after that we regrouped. We scored a good goal from a set play that we’ve worked on all week and then we scored a great second goal.
“After that I thought we were comfortable and we hit them on the break a couple of times after that through the pace of Jordan Jones and Connor Sammon. We possibly could have had a penalty as well but I’m really pleased.
“The togetherness of the boys is brilliant, they’re coming into work every day with a spring in their step and that includes the staff. We now look ahead to a very important game against Dundee next week.”
The margins between success and failure in relegation battles are not always as wide as they had been in Dingwall on Friday.
Here Dougie Imrie was a fraction of an inch away from opening the scoring in the first minute. Blair Adams’ long ball bypassed the midfield and allowed the winger to race in behind Kilmarnock’s back four. Imrie’s shot had power and accuracy but Freddie Woodman got his fingertips to it to divert the ball on to the inside of his right-hand post.
Kilmarnock used that escape as a wake-up call. Conor Sammon’s header from a Jordan Jones cross grazed the top of Remi Matthews’ crossbar but the Republic of Ireland striker soon notched his fourth goal since being sent out on loan by Hearts in January.
Hamilton’s defence failed to deal with Jordan Jones’ corner and, although Ali Crawford was able to clear Steven Smith’s shot off the line, Sammon forced the ball over the line from the rebound.
The Ayrshire club further delighted their sizeable travelling support when Jones volleyed home their second after Kris Boyd had flicked on a long throw by Luke Hendrie.
Woodman, on loan from Newcastle United, kept out a close-range header from Imrie just before the interval. The home side would not come as close again.
Kilmarnock turned in a professional, disciplined display in the second half, restricting their opponents to shots from distance.
It was, in truth, a comfortable win for the Ayrshire club. For Hamilton, though, the fear of returning to the Championship is all too real.
“We were sucker-punched,” said Hamilton manager Martin Canning. “It was a strange game because we were probably the better team. We controlled a lot of the game when Kilmarnock sat back in the second half.
“The match at Inverness on Saturday is now huge for us. I’ve always expected it to go right down to the wire.”