Kilmarnock warmed up for next week’s crucial Premiership play-off final with a morale-boosting draw against Dundee to stand them in reasonable stead for the challenge which lies ahead.
Lee Clark’s relegation-threatened side’s season rests upon the outcome of their showdown with either Hibs or Falkirk in a two-legged affair, but here they showed no signs of saving themselves in what many had considered to be a meaningless encounter for both sides.
Dundee, who slipped down a place into eighth in the table, opened the scoring through Rory Loy’s 18th-minute header, before Conrad Balatoni replied in similar fashion after the restart for Killie who now host Dundee United in their final game this weekend ahead of the nerve-jangling fight for survival. With one eye on that, visiting pair Kallum Higginbotham and Rory McKenzie were both left out as they stood just one more booking away from missing out on the vital play-off.
Dundee threatened first when Greg Stewart’s early free-kick was saved by visiting goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald with his legs, before the ball was hooked to safety.
But they didn’t have to wait too much longer to make the breakthrough as Loy reacted well inside the box to loop Nick Ross’ cross over MacDonald and into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
They did, however, suffer something of a scare in 34 minutes. Ross’ passback carried more pace than intended and keeper Scott Bain had to look lively to gather with his feet before clearing the ball off the line.
Dundee ought to have increased their lead two minutes before half-time. Loy turned provider with a weighted pass for Kane Hemmings, but the striker’s low left-foot shot was saved by the legs of MacDonald.
Kilmarnock began the second half brightly and hauled themselves level within ten minutes of the restart. Craig Slater’s free-kick high into the box eluded the Dundee defence and Balatoni was on hand to rise and head home past Bain from eight yards.
That gave the visitors a timely lift and there was no sign of any slackness creeping into their play
The hosts, by contrast, had fallen out of things and in an attempt to inject some life, Spanish striker Arturo was introduced midway through the second half at the expense of Hemmings.
Within minutes of coming on, Arturo had the chance to make an immediate impact as he latched onto Stewart’s through pass, but an element of rustiness was evident in the way he hesitated before being dispossessed.
With 15 minutes left, Loy had a chance to restore the home team’s lead. Clean through on goal, though, the former Falkirk forward shot straight at MacDonald.
There was no shortage of effort in the closing stages by either side but in the end the result was one with which few could argue.
DUNDEE: Bain, McGinn, Etxabeguren Leanizbarrutia, O’Dea, Holt, Ross, Colquhoun, Wighton, Stewart, Loy, Hemmings (Arturo 68). Subs Not Used: Meggatt, Mitchell, A Black, Gadzhalov,Curran.
KILMARNOCK: MacDonald, Addison, Findlay (O’Hara 35), Balatoni, Hodson, Dicker, Faubert (Slater 46), Magennis, Frizzell, Kiltie, Boyd. Subs Not Used: Henshall, Brennan, Obadeyi, Taylor, Whittaker.