Kilmarnock 1-1 St Mirren: Boyd bags top-six lifeline

St Mirren's Marc McAusland competes for the ball with Kris Boyd. Picture: SNS
St Mirren's Marc McAusland competes for the ball with Kris Boyd. Picture: SNS
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KRIS Boyd’s first Clydesdale Bank Premier League goal in three years was not enough to secure Kilmarnock victory.

Scorers: Kilmarnock - Boyd 47; St Mirren - Goncalves 36

It might ultimately prove academic, but the result from Rugby Park last night will have been welcomed most by Hibernian, Aberdeen and Dundee United. As we go into the final games pre-split on Saturday, all is not yet lost in these three teams’ unlikely quest for the final place in top six. Kilmarnock last night could not make sure of their top-half-of-the-table status – they have a golden chance to do so at home to Dundee on Saturday – in requiring to settle for a draw despite throwing everything at St Mirren in a second-half bombardment.

It was set in motion by a Kris Boyd goal that cancelled out an Esmael Goncalves strike but ,more than the first strike by the Scotland internationalist in home soil in three years, the talking point will be the failure of referee Crawford Allan to award a last-minute penalty after David van Zanten seemed to shove James Fowler off the ball as the midfielder burst through. With claims both goals could have had more than a hint of offside about them, the evening might not have been another one to cherish for our beleaguered officials. Unless their calls were better than those from beyond pitch level.

On a pitch it was suggested by one observer beforehand looked over-watered, the football served up across the first half hour was of the arid variety. Kilmarnock initially seemed tentative on a night which held huge importance for them. St Mirren, with Danny Lennon fielding the same side as had claimed the League Cup and a draw with Celtic at the weekend, had no such over-arching concerns with the top six far beyond them. With one team appearing a little too uptight and the other a little too relaxed, creavity, which tends to flourish in players whose mood is somewhere inbetween, proved at a premium.

There was only the odd deft through ball and clever flick in the attacking link-up play of either side during this opening third. It came from an unlikely source, with Boyd the chance maker. James Fowler, with an early mishit, and later Paul Heffernan could not invest the finishes Boyd’s invention deserved.

But, after so long failing to come to life, when the encounter did become animated, it rapidly set about making up for its moribund beginnings. In the space of five minutes, Steven Thompson was within inches of a touch that would have sent netward a ball flashed across the box, Goncalves narrowly put an effort wide after racing in on Cammy Bell, and then his St Mirren counterpart Craig Samson hared from his box to charge down a Boyd chip.

Goncalves went into last night with a two-match ban hanging over him for his penalty-earning dive in the weekend encounter with Celtic. The Portuguese has yet to decide whether to accept the sanction offered him by compliance officer Vincent Lunny, which will come his way via a disciplinary panel if he doesn’t. In the 37th minute last night, though, he accepted the opportunity presented by a ball hoisted 50-yards from Van Zaten to make his mark on probably his last game for a couple of weeks. He galloped beyond his marker and produced a clinical low finish to tucked the ball beyond Bell.

It was a strike that had Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels and the home supporters issuing oaths at the match officials (a common occurance these days) for a perceived failure to spot that Goncalves had run into an offside position before being played in down the right channel.

Goncalves’ goal had clearly given him a taste for more and within a couple of minutes he absolutely melted an effort towards goal that Bell somehow managed to put his hands up to block before the striker lashed over the rebound, which Thompson had been guilty of doing moments earlier.

Kilmarnock, then, could only have been mighty relieved to hear the half-time whistle and the made the most of the respite by reappearing a team transformed. So much so that within 90 seconds they were level after Borja Perez played in Boyd and he slammed the ball into the net in trademark Boyd fashion. The trademark extending to the fact there appeared a suspicion of offside. His first goal since re-joining his first club in January, it also marked his first SPL goal since he scored in his final game for Rangers on 9 May, 2010. In a second period completely dominated by a revitalised home side, a second for his team should have ensued. The spotlight may again fall on referees for the fact it didn’t materialise.

Kilmarnock: Bell, Barbour, O’Hara, Sissoko, Tesselaar, Clingan, Fowler, Perez (Ibrahim 83), Hay, Boyd, Heffernan (McKenzie 88). Subs not used: Letheren, O’Leary, Gros, Sheridan, Johnston.

St Mirren: Samson, Van Zanten, McAusland, Goodwin, Dummett, Teale (Puri 83), McGowan, Newton, McGinn (McLean 75), Thompson, Goncalves (Guy 75). Subs not used: Adam, Mair, Carey, Parkin.