Kilmarnock 2 - 0 Ross County: Killie grab win

Kilmarnock's Jerone Tesselaar and Ross County's Darren Maatsen race for possession. Picture: SNS
Kilmarnock's Jerone Tesselaar and Ross County's Darren Maatsen race for possession. Picture: SNS
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Kilmarnock midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim was rushed to hospital after collapsing on the pitch during the first half of yesterday’s game.

SCORERS: Kilmarnock - Boyd 17, Irvine 71

The Nigerian left the field on a stretcher, although manager Allan Johnston, who finally celebrated his first victory, played down the seriousness of the incident afterwards.

“I don’t think it’s an injury – I believe he just collapsed,” he said. “He’s gone to hospital and we’ll just have to wait and see what the results are.

“Hopefully, he’ll be OK. He was speaking fine after he went off but he wasn’t feeling right and you can’t take any chances with that.

“If he’s going to be out it will be a big loss for us because he’s a very good player and a great lad.”

With protests against unpopular chairman Michael Johnston taking place both before and during yesterday’s match, incidents on the pitch were in danger of being obscured by events off it.

Much is made, mainly by managers, of how little these demonstrations affect players but the opening 15 minutes of this encounter gave the lie to that.

Kilmarnock’s players appeared so nervous and lacking in confidence that the ball was clubbed rather than caressed, with no-one seemingly willing to accept the responsibility of dictating the tempo. Then again, without a victory in front of their own fans for over eight months going into yesterday’s game, perhaps it was understandable that the hosts were more inclined to play it safe.

However, the opening goal did much to bolster their fragile self-belief, even though it could hardly be described as a classic. Barry Nicholson’s cross was knocked down by Kris Boyd for Michael Gardyne and, although the on-loan Dundee United striker certainly made contact, Boyd claimed the final touch – he was, after all, in the same postcode – and celebrations ensued.

The atmosphere changed almost immediately, though, when a protest pre-arranged for the 18th minute (there was another after 69 minutes, to commemorate the year of the founding of Scotland’s oldest professional club) took place against the stewardship of Johnston.

The fans are also increasingly deciding to protest in the most meaningful way, i.e. by refusing to attend, in a bid to force a departure by Johnston which they feel

might be in the best interests of all parties.

Stuart Kettlewell cleared a

Darren Barr header off the line in the 40th minute – Barr, at least, was convinced the ball had crossed the line – and Boyd rattled the crossbar when he should have scored. Gardyne had sent his senior partner clear and Boyd had more than enough time to have finished the job from eight yards.

That profligacy could have proved costly if Craig Samson had not been more alert. The Scotland squad man saved his side twice within a matter of minutes, first twisting to turn over a Darren Maatsen header and then spreading himself to block a Mihael Kovacevic shot from point-blank range.

Nerves began to creep into the home side’s display but they were banished by an outstanding goal 18 minutes from the end.

Scott Boyd conceded a free-kick, Nicholson nudged it towards

Jackson Irvine and the midfielder, who made his international debut for Australia in midweek, wrapped his right foot around the ball before beating Brown from 20 yards.

“It’s been a long time coming but I think I’ve now proved to the

Killie fans that I’m good enough to be here,” he said, before dedicating the win to Ibrahim.

County manager Derek Adams was left disappointed once again after yet another disappointing away defeat.

His side have not won on their travels for eight months now. “We started the game well and caused Kilmarnock problems and then we gave a really poor goal away,” he said. “That was down to indecision between a few players. After that we still created openings and their goalkeeper made a few good saves but Kilmarnock were always liable to score again.

“I can’t put my finger on our away form. I’d hope to be able to but I can’t.”