Mediocre was the word Motherwell manager Mark McGhee used afterwards to describe this contest and there were no dissenting voices.
He had a better view of proceedings than is normally the case, having watched from the main stand as he began a two-match touchline ban. McGhee’s honesty was commendable, though, on an afternoon which did nothing to enhance the reputation of either side.
The Steelmen remain in ninth place following this goalless, soulless draw and, while they had the opportunities to claim all three points, the clinical excellence which saw them score three times against Celtic here seven days earlier deserted them.
Profligacy prevailed, though, and, in truth, it was a match neither team deserved to win. “If you don’t take your chances then you don’t win games,” said McGhee. “We had a couple at the end of the first half and a couple in the second half. That was disappointing. The game itself was fairly mediocre.
“We had people missing while Louis Moult and Scott McDonald nearly never started. They were last-minute declarations.
“Chris Cadden, who has been influential lately, was missing and Steven Hammell was also out.
“We were a wee bit out of sorts although we still made enough clear-cut chances to win the game.”
The visitors enjoyed the best of the early exchanges, having a penalty appeal dismissed when Rory McKenzie’s shot struck Stephen McManus on the arm and the home side had a lucky escape when a clearance from Keith Lasley ricocheted off Steven Smith and flew inches wide of Craig Samson’s unprotected left-hand post.
Ross McLean came close for the hosts in the 20th minute, cutting in from the left flank to play a one-two with Moult before drilling in a shot from 15 yards which only just missed the target.
Motherwell had an appeal of their own rejected when a net-bound Stephen McManus volley struck Luke Hendrie but referee Steven McLean correctly decided, once again, that it was a case of ball to hand rather than vice versa.
Souleymane Coulibaly, that purveyor of spectacular goals, produced a hooked shot which just cleared Samson’s crossbar.
At the other end, an exquisite flick from Moult and a slide-rule pass from Scott McDonald created an opening for McLean. The move deserved a better finish than the teenager’s snatched shot which Jamie MacDonald was able to push to safety.
The more experienced Lionel Ainsworth had no excuse for the lack of composure he displayed when one on one with the keeper, slicing his shot high and wide of the near post.
It would have been pleasing to report that lessons had been learned at the interval and that the standard improved but, unfortunately, the fare was just as dire.
Motherwell continued to look the likelier side, though, and it required a superb block from Scott Boyd to divert a Moult drive behind for a corner. McDonald could have won it for Motherwell at the death but even he dragged his effort wide after being teed up by the tireless Richard Tait.
Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark believed that the draw was a fair result. “It was a tight game,” he said. “We started brightly and had some good opportunities. Motherwell came into the game and caused us one or two problems.
“It was a result that’s indicative of what this league is all about. Usually you’re happy to go away from home, get a point and keep a clean sheet but I just felt we could have turned the screw a little more.”
There was a blow for Clark, though, with the news that central defender Miles Addison, who has been out of action with a groin problem since November 5 and who was expected to return yesterday, will not play again this year.
“Miles has had a setback, unfortunately,” he said. “He trained on Friday but didn’t last too long.
“He’ll have surgery on Thursday and, hopefully, he’ll be back for the Scottish Cup game against Hamilton in mid-January. We are down to the bare bones in that area.”
McGhee, who will complete his suspension at Pittodrie on Tuesday, struggled to find positives in this performance. “The clean sheet was good but I’m still someone who prefers a 3-2 to a 0-0... obviously. It will be harder to keep a clean sheet against Aberdeen on Tuesday and I will be more pleased if we do that.”