The second leg of Sunday’s Premiership play-off final was less than two minutes old when Kilmarnock striker Josh Magennis realised that rivals Falkirk did not have the stomach for the fight.
By then Magennis had just slalomed through the Bairns defence to lay on the goal for Greg Kiltie which cancelled out the Bairns’ 1-0 lead from the first leg.
However, although the outcome should still have been in the balance, the Northern Ireland international could already tell that this was going to Kilmarnock’s day.
“It was all hands to the pump for us,” said the 25-year-old. “That’s what the gaffer said – if we started well and got an early goal then they would crumble. We scored in the third minute and again shortly afterwards.
“Normally I’m in the mix of it with all the celebrations, but, after the first goal, I just stayed in the background. I saw on the faces of the Falkirk players that we had them and that’s how it proved to be.”
Like last year’s 6-1 thrashing of Championship runners-up Rangers by Motherwell, Kilmarnock’s 4-1 aggregate victory gave the lie to the suggestion that there is not much to choose between the top half of the second tier and the bottom half of the elite division.
In truth, the Ayrshire club’s winning margin could easily have been greater. They had been the better team in the first leg and also spurned several inviting opportunities at Rugby Park.
“We blew them away,” said Magennis. “We’re so happy that we’ve maintained our Premiership status but that’s the most frustrating thing, that we put on a performance like that and won 4-0. You go back to games at the start of the season, when we were losing heavily at home to Ross County, Dundee and Partick Thistle. We weren’t a bad team, but we were inconsistent. But [against Falkirk] we were on fire. There were nerves, but they were happy nerves because there would have been nothing worse than going away and trying to look forward to the Euros if the worst-case scenario had happened.”
Magennis admits that dropping into the Championship would have cast a pall over his participation in next month’s European Championship finals in France.
“You don’t want to go there on a downer because you start to question yourself,” he said. “But the way we stayed up was fantastic. When this place is mobbed, it’s wonderful. The only time I’ve seen it like that was the Ayr game.
“We fed off the atmosphere and we stayed up in style. After Thursday, we were probably the underdogs. Even though they scored in the last minute, if you lose that tends to be the case. But we did our work, even though it was a quick turnaround. The gaffer reshaped the team and everyone knew what they needed to do.
“He said if everyone looked after their own job, we’d come together as a team and perform. That’s what we were able to do. It’s fantastic to say you’ve scored four goals, but, more importantly, we kept a clean sheet in the most vital game in the club’s history.”
Magennis missed the first leg with a hamstring problem and admitted that he was aware his involvement on Sunday, when he also laid on a goal for Kris Boyd, pictured, could jeopardise his Euro 2016 chances.
“If I said risking myself for the Euros wasn’t in my thoughts then that would be a blatant lie,” he said. “It was on the back of my mind but, first, it was vital we kept Kilmarnock in the league.”