Kilmarnock defender Lee Ashcroft opened the scoring in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Inverness – and admitted that it felt as though he was still playing for the youth team.
Manager Allan Johnston has decided to give the young generation a chance. Six of his 10 outfield players in that game were 21 or under and he’ll stick with them for tomorrow’s meeting with champions Celtic at Parkhead.
Ashcroft claims that there is a special bond between the young players who have come through the Rugby Park ranks.
“I was absolutely chuffed to get the goal,” said the 20-year-old. “I scored my first in a game against Hibs last season but we lost 3-1. So to score and then get the win made it feel so much better. You can’t complain about a goal and a clean sheet – that was magic.
“When I got the goal and I saw all the boys running towards me it felt like I was back in the Under-20 side. It’s absolutely brilliant that so many of us have come through the ranks together. Alan Robertson, the youth coach, has done a terrific job for us. He’s always had faith in us and brought us all through. You can see how good a job he’s done because there are so many of us now in the first team.”
That win eased Kilmarnock’s fears of ending up in the play-off position but events between now and Friday – when the transfer window closes – could help even more. “We’ve got a hard game against Celtic and then a massive home game against County, who are just four points behind us, on Saturday,” said Ashcroft. “They lost at home to Hearts so, hopefully, their heads will be down when we get them here and we can get another result.”
The ideal scenario for Kilmarnock would be for top scorer Kris Boyd to stay and Finnish playmaker Alexei Eremenko to join, Ashcroft claims. “Alexei was here during my first season with Kilmarnock,” he said. “I trained with the first team on a couple of occasions back then and I could see what a cracking player he was.
“Remembering the goals and what he brought to the team, he would be a great signing for us. If we could get him in we could start challenging the teams at the top of the table. Inverness were the first top-six side we’ve beaten this season but now we’ve proved we can do that.
“As for Kris, it would be massive for us to keep a hold of him because he’s the one we depend on every week. He teaches us so much in training and I know that I’m not going to face anyone better than him in a league game.”