KILMARNOCK find themselves in turmoil ahead of the trip to Hamilton on Saturday following the departure of manager Allan Johnston.
Johnston announced he was quitting the club on Thursday moments before a Rugby Park press conference, citing the sale of striker Robbie Muirhead to Dundee United on transfer deadline day for a reported fee of £150,000, which left him with only one recognised striker, as a root cause.
However, the board relieved the former Killie player of his duties on Friday morning, with assistant Gary Locke put in charge while a new boss is sought.
A club statement read: “Allan will stand down as manager with immediate effect and the board has therefore appointed assistant manager Gary Locke as interim manager pending a permanent appointment.’’
The former Hearts boss, who will be assisted by Alan Robertson, will have to deal with the same problem which proved a tipping point for Johnston.
With Michael Ngoo out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury and Lee Miller still struggling with a knee complaint, the Ayrshire side have only one recognised striker - Josh Magennis - available for the Scottish Premiership clash with Accies.
Killie sit six points outside the top six with a game in hand - which comes at Hamilton - but a run of two wins from 14 games had seen many fans turn against Johnston.
However, their position is an improvement on last season when they only avoided a relegation play-off with a 1-0 victory at Hibernian on the final day of the league season.
Johnston, though, looked at his squad and envisaged a difficult run-in.
On the Muirhead transfer he said: ‘’There is a number of things but that certainly doesn’t make your job any easier. I never found out Robbie was away until five past 12. Stuff like that, it is not the way things are done.”
In the club statement, however, the board did not address the departure of Muirhead, thanking Johnston for services rendered.
The statement read: “The board of directors would like to express its thanks to Allan Johnston for his diligent service over the last 18 months.
“Allan kept the club in the Premiership last season by recording crucial end-of-season victories and an excellent start to the current league season raised expectations.
“Unfortunately, a number of injuries to key players and a series of poor results followed and although the club sits in eighth place in the Premiership, Allan decided to announce his decision to leave the club to the media on Thursday.”