THE enigmatic genius that is Alexei Eremenko produced the best cameo role since Orson Welles in The Third Man with nine minutes of elegance and vicious virtuosity which swung the game in his side’s favour.
Scorer: Kilmarnock - Eremenko 90+2
It had not been an afternoon to remember until his belated introduction but his confidence transmitted itself to the rest of the team and his sublime technique won it for them at the death to give them their first success in nine attempts.
The Finn also revealed that the synthetic surface at Rugby Park has been the cause of many of the back and groin problems which have pock-marked his campaign.
“I’ll be 32 soon and I’ve been lucky with injuries during my career,” he said. “I’ve only had one serious injury, but I’ve had five months of training and playing on the new pitch here and it’s taking its toll on the older lads.
“I’ve never had these kinds of injuries before. They are not serious but they have not let me work at 100 per cent.
“I am taking painkillers for my back. It is getting better but hopefully the doctor will help me do my job.”
Already deprived of the services of Sammy Clingan, Michael Ngoo and Eremenko through injury, Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston sprang a shock when he dropped club captain Manuel Pascali to the bench.
The decision did little to immediately improve their fortunes, as in-form Hamilton poured forward relentlessly in search of the opening goal.
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Chis Chantler’s last-ditch block managed to divert a netbound effort from Ali Crawford and the same player saw a lob from 25 yards clawed out from underneath the crossbar by Craig Samson.
Samson was the busier goalkeeper, pushing away a low effort from Dougie Imrie and then gathering a miss-hit shot from Tony Andreu.
Killie came into the contest as the first half drew to a close and created the best opening in the 35th minute. Rory McKenzie outstripped Stephen Hendrie on the right wing and his cutback was fractionally behind Robbie Muirhead, two yards out.
Unfortunately for the big striker, he could not adjust his feet and, when he finally pulled the trigger, his shot was deflected behind.
It did not, though, signal a sea change in the pattern of play. Indeed, Mickael Antoine-Curier managed to plant the ball behind Samson from Darian MacKinnon’s through ball only to discover that assistant referee Sean Carr had flagged for offside.
Accies midfielder MacKinnon, who had fine afternoon otherwise, missed an absolute sitter with nine minutes remaining when he headed over from a yard after Ali Crawford’s corner had travelled all the way to the far post.
Enter Eremenko, strutting and swaggering. He released Jamie Hamill, who was brought down by Michael Devlin 20 yards out. The playmaker grabbed the ball and then despatched it high behind the helpless McGovern with a sumptuous strike.
“At the free-kick, I told Craig Slater that I was taking it,” he revealed. “He had taken one earlier but I wanted this one.
“It was important to get the win, not just for the three points but also for a psychological boost for the players and fans.
“It wasn’t always pretty and I thought Hamilton were very good. I like the way they pass the ball and the way they play.
“A draw would have been a fair result because Hamilton created a lot of chances. But we are delighted with the win.”
Hamilton manager Alex Neil believed, rightly, that his side should have taken more from the game.
“Over the 90 minutes I thought we were the better side and had the better chances. The performance was pleasing but a bit of naivety cost us and those are the hardest ones to take.
“However, we’ve had a fantastic season so far and we just need to put this to bed and move on to the next game.”
Kilmarnock: Samson, Barbour, Connolly, Ashcroft, Chantler (O’Hara 84), McKenzie, Hamill, Slater, Magennis, Muirhead (Johnston 70), Miller (Eremenko 79). Subs not used: Brennan, Cairney, Pascali, Splaine.
Hamilton: McGovern, Gillespie, Canning, Devlin, Hendrie, Neil (Routledge 71), MacKinnon, Imrie, Crawford, Andreu (Longridge 80), Antoine-Curier (Scotland 73). Subs not used: Hill, Brophy, Tena, Redmond.
Referee: Craig Thomson. Attendance: 3,921.
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