Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston did not try to offer any excuses after his side’s top-flight future was left in greater threat following an abject 5-0 defeat to an already relegated Hearts.
Johnston was barracked by his own supporters throughout the humiliating defeat, which saw former Ayr United player Ryan Stevenson grab a hat-trick. If it proved an unpalatable afternoon for the away supporters, then their disgust was shared by the man they clearly blamed for their team’s woes. A year ago Johnston had just been named PFA Scotland manager of the year for his efforts with Queen of the South and yet here he found himself pilloried.
Kilmarnock remain in a relegation play-off place and face St Mirren, whose top-flight status is now assured, on Wednesday night. They then travel to face Hibs this Saturday in what could be a straight fight to avoid being forced to play a two-legged tie against a Championship team. On yesterday’s performance, Kilmarnock have the most to fear.
“To be honest with you, that was embarrassing,” admitted Johnston. “A poor performance. That’s as frank as I can be. In the position we’re in, we’ve got to show more desire – and I thought Hearts wanted it more than us.
“That is unacceptable because our futures are on the line, with the position we’re in. You’ve got to be worried by that performance. If we put performances on like that, we’re going to get relegated. It’s just not good enough.
“But we know we can play a million times better than that. We have done for large parts of games but we’re losing too many goals.”
Johnston said he could not help but hear the abuse being directed his way as he stood on the sidelines. He watched it go wrong from as early as the 11th minute, when Stevenson opened the scoring. The striker had claimed a hat-trick by half-time, and the Kimarnock fans were not slow to tell Johnston what they thought of this tame surrender from their team.
He and his assistant Sandy Clark were the target for songs such as “you don’t know what you’re doing”. A banner saying “AJ OUT” was also unfurled a number of times.
“Of course you are going to notice it,” said Johnston. “But you’re the manager – you get the praise when it’s going well, you get the stick when it’s not going well, and deservedly so, because that’s not good enough. But we’re still in a position where we can get what’s needed to make sure we’re safe from the play-offs.
“I’m sure it might distract the players, those sorts of chants,” he continued. “But, as a player, you’ve got to concentrate on your own game. You can’t get distracted by off-the-field stuff. Obviously it’s difficult because you want your fans to get behind you. Because you want the results needed to stay up.
“It’s definitely one of the worst days of my football career,” he added, illustrating just how dismal his side’s display had been. “I can’t remember many worse results than that.
“Especially when you go into the game expecting to get a result. We came here expecting to take something because we’d had good results against Hearts. We came here on Boxing Day and turned in probably the best performance of the season, a 4-0 win. So to put a performance like that in is just not acceptable.”
Johnston received strong support from his opposite number, the former Kilmarnock player Gary Locke. He described the treatment handed out to his friend and one-time team-mate as “a disgrace”.
“It hurt me, 100 per cent,” said Locke, with reference to how he felt to hear Johnston receive such flak. “The treatment he got today was a disgrace. It’s not for me to tell Kilmarnock what to do but I know Allan well. He’s a close friend of mine and a fantastic coach and manager.
“I really hope they get the results they need in the next two games because I spent seven years at the club and it’s a great club with great supporters and I certainly wish them all the best.
“I believe in Allan and Sandy, 100 per cent,” he added. “They have good players there and two cup finals coming up but so have all the teams they’re playing.”
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
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