KILMARNOCK manager Gary Locke’s problems continue to mount following this latest setback, although the manner of the loss will have concerned him more than the narrow margin of defeat.
Still without a victory after six league games, his team are isolated at the bottom and the jeers from the away end which greeted the final whistle told their own story.
However, Locke left Fir Park convinced that an error of judgment by referee Steven McLean had cost his side.
The hosts had been knocking on the door from the kick-off and their opening goal was as overdue as it was preventable.
Scott McDonald and Dominic Thomas had both come close before Killie shot themselves in the foot. They failed in several attempts to clear their lines before Mark O’Hara needlessly fouled Louis Moult from behind. The striker accepted the responsibility of taking the resulting penalty and he beat Jamie MacDonald low to his right.
“I’ve seen it again and it’s not a penalty but, unfortunately for us, we’re on the wrong end of a bad decision,” said Locke.
“I think you could see, by the reaction of our fans, what they thought of it. It was a poor decision and we’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of them from Steven and it’s cost us. But I am still positive we can go on and have a good season.”
Moult begged to differ. “For me it’s definitely a penalty,” he said. “I’ve come from behind the lad, just nicked in front and got the touch and he’s kicked my heel.
“I don’t think he knew I was there and he certainly didn’t mean it, but he didn’t get the ball and, in my eyes, that’s a penalty.”
Motherwell ought to have had a second goal when Moult was wrongly ruled offside as he converted a through ball from Thomas.
“We should have won by more but we had a goal disallowed and, having seen it again, Louis was onside by a yard,” said manager Ian Baraclough.
“However, we need to make sure that, when we are on song, we put teams to the sword. The players will now be told to take a few days off and forget all about football and recharge their batteries.”
Yet, for all their early superiority, Motherwell were indebted to Connor Ripley, who produced a fine one-handed save to deny Josh Magennis after the Northern Ireland forward had drilled a cutback from Rory McKenzie goalwards. It was the last time the visitors threatened to restore parity and Motherwell did not create much either in a second half which is best forgotten and soon will be.
New signing Theo Robinson came off the bench for Motherwell but the Jamaica striker, while showing potential, was understandable sluggish after a four-month lay-off.
Kilmarnock could certainly do with the lift a new signing would bring, a fact Locke acknowledged afterwards.
“It’s never great going into the break on the back of a defeat,” he said. “But there were some positives and you could see the benefit of having a few players back.
“It’s difficult when you are low on confidence. The only way we will get that back is by working hard.
“Hopefully, this break will give us the opportunity to get a few injured players back and we can possibly strengthen before the window shuts.”
Motherwell: Ripley; Law, Kennedy, McManus, Chalmers; Ainsworth (Johnson 67), Lasley, Leitch (Laing 77), Thomas; McDonald; Moult (Robinson 63 ). Subs: Twardzik, Clarkson, Cadden, McMillan. Booked: Laing.
Kilmarnock: MacDonald; O’Hara, Ashcroft, Findlay, Smith (Westlake 21); McKenzie, Hamill, Slater, Higginbotham (Obadeyi 46); Boyd; Magennis (Kiltie 66). Subs: Davies, Barbour, Westlake, Splaine, Hawkshaw.
Referee: S McLean. Attendance: 4,136