Kilmarnock 3-1 Dundee United: United crash down to earth as they gift Killie a victory
DUNDEE United were yesterday seeking to become the first team based outside Glasgow to win their opening three Scottish Premier League fixtures since Hearts mounted a title challenge by recording eight victories on the trot seven years ago.
Instead, they capitulated in utterly brutal fashion to gift Kilmarnock three goals between the 47th and 55th minutes… and with these presents a first league win of the season for the home side. Which says it all, really, about why no team ever threatens to bring a modicum of unpredictability into the championship chase these days.
After a first half in which neither side seemed capable of putting the frighteners on the other, United set about playing some harum-scarum football all of their own to bring themselves back to earth with a thud following back-to-back 3-0 wins. It was truly buttock-clenching stuff.
It all started when Barry Douglas, for reasons best known to himself, decided to dribble the ball back into his own penalty area, then leave it there for keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak, who had no clue of his full-back’s intentions. The outcome was debutant Rory McKenzie being able to nip in and net the easiest goal he said he has ever scored.
A minute later, with the Polish keeper having barely ceased his verbal mauling of Douglas, winger Gary Mackay-Steven needlessly tripped Danny Racchi to give away a penalty converted with aplomb by Borja Perez. A shocking passage of play from the Tannadice side was then completed when they failed on more than one occasion to clear a Craig Nelson header knocked towards goal from a corner. Their punishment duly arrived when substitute Jude Winchester bundled the ball over the line at a second attempt.
There was only one impressive performer in the United ranks yesterday and that was manager Peter Houston. He hit so many nails on the head in his post-match filleting of his own team he could have knocked up a bedroom cabinet in the Rugby Park press room. He certainly seemed of a mind to knock some heads after agreeing his team could have been guilty of “believing their own publicity” and “some of the nice stuff that’s been written about them” of late. He called the result a “reality check”.
“We actually gave Killie three points without them having to work for them,” said Houston, whose side pulled a goal back 12 minutes from time when Jon Daly controlled a curling Douglas cross from deep and planted it in the far corner.
“You don’t get anything without working hard and we were nowhere near our usual standards of workrate. We usually play to a high tempo and after two good results we seemed to think we could just pop the ball off without going anywhere. We wanted too many touches at the back, straight passes in amongst bodies. Overall it was a bad performance and Killie didn’t have to be exceptional to be 3-0 up. It was more our poor play and poor loss of goals. I never saw anything to hurt us until the start of the second half.”
Then he saw much to hurt them. “What’s Barry Douglas thinking? He’s a young guy, he’s learning the game still but he took his first touch outside our box then started to run towards the six-yard box. No matter how young you are, you have to realise you can’t do that. You can’t blame the goalkeeper. He didn’t pass it in to him, he ran, then touch, touch, touch, into the six-yard box and leaves it, then starts moaning at Rado? Rado had no part of it, I don’t blame him at all. It’s kids’ stuff. Even then, the two goals we lost after that were a joke. We gave Kilmarnock the impetus.”
The Ayrshire club gratefully took that impetus through some kids’ stuff of their own – 18-year-old McKenzie and Winchester, one year his senior. “All football supporters have a connection with young players, they feel as though they’re their own,” said Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels. “They draw an affinity with them and as a manager you feel more satisfaction when young players do well. It’s a big risk to play young players and bring them through but you can feel the energy from the stands when the young boys do something good. It’s fantastic.”
Shiels may need to depend on that after expressing no optimism he will be able to add to his squad after losing out to Dundee on loan deals for Colin Nish and Lewis Toshney. “We couldn’t get near the finance,” he said. “It’s indicative of the times but we certainly need a striker.”
Kilmarnock showed gumption to do a job on United without Gary Harkins, lost to concussion after only 13 minutes, and without injury absentees Paul Heffernan, Cammy Bell and Garry Hay. When it came to their opponents, even the players who were there were posted absent, mind you.
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