NOBODY at Rugby Park yesterday will have left feeling short-changed as these two teams shared four goals in a topsy-turvy encounter. It was never pretty, but always intriguing, and will be just about palatable to both sides as they ensured the relegation dogfight remains a distance behind.
Kilmarnock - 2
Magennis 33; Pascali 80
Partick Thistle - 2
Stevenson 2; Frans 84
Certainly, Partick manager Alan Archibald was content with the point. He said: “After a good opening 20 minutes we looked at times like a team who had played three times inside a week, so pleased with the point and delighted with the character we showed to come back and level the game.”
Allan Johnston of Kilmarnock was a little more reluctant to take the point, but saw plenty of positives. “It is frustrating to lose a goal from a free kick so late on having taken the lead ten minutes from the end, however it was a good team performance in which Rory McKenzie was outstanding.”
Thistle made the trip along the M77 fresh from their 5-0 midweek spanking of Hamilton, and the confidence pulsing through them was evident as they took the lead inside two minutes. Kilmarnock never got themselves defensively set from kick-off, allowing Thistle to work the ball to former Ayr United star Ryan Stevenson who with oceans to work in, and no defenders showing any inclination to shut him down, sent a skidding shot past Craig Samson from just outside the area.
Accusing glances were cast in the direction of the slow-to-get-down Samson, but he was offered little or no protection by his colleagues, who for the opening quarter of an hour were all at sea and being picked apart by Thistle’s studied passing.
Indeed, had Kris Doolan been in the same form as hauled him four goals against Accies he could have doubled the lead soon after when he pushed a free header wide from six yards.
Kilmarnock were treading water and, had Thistle found a second goal, it would have been a long road back for the home team. However, the Maryhill men’s failure to capitalise left the door open for Killie to strike back, Josh Magennis equalising with his team’s first genuinely purposeful attack of the game with a low strike from distance, not too dissimilar to the opener.
Goals change the trajectory of football matches and this was to be the case here as Killie suddenly began to enjoy supremacy. Robbie Muirhead fired narrowly wide from 30 yards and only the intervention of Willie Collum denied them the lead when the whistler got a close offside call spot on.
The official was less astute and less popular after the break when he appeared to deny both teams very good shouts for penalties in quick succession as the game got tighter and more fractured.
Scrappy was one way to sum up proceedings, and it is a fair description, as Killie hit the lead ten minutes from the end courtesy of a Manuel Pascali finish at the end of some penalty-box pinball.
There was, though, to be one more twist in the tale as Thistle grabbed a late leveller. Frédéric Frans was the Jags’ hero as he turned home past a wrong-footed Samson from six yards from a poorly dealt with dead-ball delivery.
Kilmarnock: Samson, Westlake, Pascali, Ashcroft (O’Hara 63), Chantler, McKenzie, Slater, Clingan, Obadeyi (Johnston 74), Muirhead (Ngoo 88), Magennis. Subs not used: Barbour, Cairney, Brennan, Syme.
Partick Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Frans, Seaborne, Elliott (Fraser 63), Lawless (McDaid 76), Osman, Craigen, Higginbotham, Stevenson (Bannigan 57), Doolan. Subs not used: Balatoni, Eccleston, Keenan, Basalaj.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 4,130.