Kilmarnock stretched their unbeaten Premiership sequence to nine games with this comfortable victory over Hamilton, whose only consolation is the continued wretchedness of the three teams below them in the table.
While not at their best (or their strongest), Steve Clarke’s side still managed to dominate here and, with a little more composure, their winning margin could have been greater. However, that is unlikely to cause any sleepless nights in Ayrshire given they are seven points clear of Hearts with as many games remaining.
“It’s another win for us – and that’s always a good habit to have,” said Clarke. “It wasn’t a great game, a bit scrappy. But I think all the moments of real quality came from ourselves. It wasn’t pretty but we did what we had to do and, if it had been an open game of football, I still think we would have won it.”
The last dozen meetings between these sides had failed to produce a home win but this was never going to be unlucky 13 for Killie and it did not take long for the hosts to assert their superiority.
Even without the suspended Kirk Broadfoot and with Youssouf Mulumbu and Jordan Jones rested, Kilmarnock were in control from the first whistle and in front inside five minutes.
The goal came from a sweeping move; Gary Dicker and Eamonn Brophy combined to release Stephen O’Donnell on the right and the full-back’s first-time cross found Lee Erwin six yards out. He controlled the ball with his right foot, swivelled and fired home with his left.
Rory McKenzie came close to doubling that advantage 14 minutes later when his dipping volley from 20 yards only just cleared Gary Woods’ crossbar.
So confident were Kilmarnock that Jamie MacDonald felt secure enough to do a Cruyff turn on the edge of his six-yard box to wrong-foot Antonio Rojano.
Having played a key role in the opening goal, O’Donnell provided the second himself with a trundler of a shot from 30 yards after Accies failed to clear their lines from a Rory McKenzie corner. Woods, who was slow to react, could be credited with the assist.
The goalkeeper redeemed himself with a superb reflex save to beat away Kris Boyd’s shot from point-blank range in the 50th minute as Hamilton threatened to crumble.
It took Accies 71 minutes to force a save from MacDonald, who threw himself to his right to parry a header from Georgios Sarris.
The visitors mustered a few more half-chances before the final whistle but Killie had downed tools by then, content in the knowledge that their punchless opponents did not possess the wherewithal to salvage anything from this contest.
“We fought in the second-half and tried to get back into the game but did we really believe we were going to get back into it?” said Hamilton manager Martin Canning. “I don’t think we did; I don’t think there was enough belief. They were on the front foot, and they believed they could win the game and that was the main difference between the teams.”