Inverness Caledonian Thistle, undefeated since 2 September, followed up their comprehensive victory at Ibrox in midweek with a more hard-fought success at Rugby Park.
Kilmarnock: Kelly 56
Inverness Caley Thistle: A Shinnie 21; McKay 76 pen
Referee: E Norris
They have now won five of their last six matches and, playing with such vim and vigour, it will take something special to subdue Terry Butcher’s side.
However, Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels, unhappy about the dismissal of his goalkeeper, Cammy Bell, revealed afterwards that he has reported referee Euan Norris to the SPL’s match delegate.
When asked for his opinion of Bell’s dismissal, he replied: “I’m not allowed to be honest. [The SFA’s compliance officer] Vincent Lunny doesn’t allow me to be honest. It’s the only industry in the world where that happens.
“I went to shake the referee’s hand at the end and I didn’t say anything, kept my emotions in check. But he said something
sarcastic to me so I’ve reported him to John Connolly.”
Perhaps it was because, for some unfathomable reason, Kilmarnock wore their away kit at home, but they certainly appeared to be
disoriented during the opening stages at Rugby Park yesterday.
Michael Nelson almost gifted the visitors the lead in the 15th minute when he inexplicably hooked a clearance over his own shoulder.
It fell kindly for Billy McKay but the Caley striker squandered the opportunity, failing to hit the target from 15 yards.
Rory McKenzie briefly lifted the spirits of the disappointingly small home crowd with a solo run and shot which stung the fingers of Antonio Reguero, who was grateful to his defenders for clearing the loose ball.
However, there was little doubt that Inverness were the dominant force and they moved in front approaching the midway point of the first half.
McKay turned provider on this occasion, back-heeling the ball into the path of Andrew Shinnie, who scrambled the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
Killie had Bell to thank for not falling further behind just two minutes later. The Scotland goalkeeper saved at McKay’s feet after Manuel Pascali had conceded possession.
That escape finally sparked the home side into life and they had a legitimate claim for a penalty – when Gary Warren appeared to bring down McKenzie – rejected by referee Norris.
McKenzie was certainly Kilmarnock’s biggest goal threat and he forced another fine save from Reguero with a low drive from 18 yards out.
It was bettered by Bell two minutes from half-time when he denied Graeme Shinnie from the penalty spot. Nelson had struggled to cope with the movement of Thistle’s front men and he got an attempted shoulder-charge on Andrew Shinnie.
On this occasion, referee Norris immediately pointed to the spot but Bell not only saved from Shinnie the younger but also sprang to his feet to push the ball away from Philip Roberts as he attempted to convert the rebound.
Liam Kelly restored parity with a magnificent strike from 25 yards which found Reguero’s top left-hand corner like a heat-seeking missile.
Inverness were only temporarily discouraged, however, and they notched the winner their performance deserved 14 minutes from time.
Owain Tudur Jones sprang Killie’s offside trap with a perfectly-measured pass, Ross Draper timed his run and had taken the ball round Bell when the goalkeeper brought him down.
The red card which ensued was inevitable and substitute Kyle Letheren’s first touch was to pick the ball out of the net after McKay had sent him the wrong way from the spot.
“We’re up to third now – this is heady stuff,” said Butcher. No one disagreed.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Cammy Bell (Killie)
His red card may have blotted his copybook but he had been in exceptional form up until then.
Should McKenzie have had a penalty for Kilmarnock? It looked like it.