Two fine strikes combine to enliven one average day

Kilmarnock 1

Dundee 1

THIS sun-kissed Sunday set-to was reminiscent of one of the legendary Freddie Trueman cricketing stories - of how the great Yorkshire bowler uprooted the middle stump of the latest Oxbridge graduate to be tagged "The Next Big Thing in English Cricket".

As the batsman trudged off, with patrician hautiness, he congratulated his nemesis; "Excellent delivery Trueman."

"Aye, it were wasted on thee," was the reply.

This game was like that - the two goals were wasted on the overall 90 minutes.

Not that this was a bad game - the evenly-matched sides simply cancelled each other out too often to leave the fans satisfied with the fare on view.

In fact, midway through the first half the consensus along the press benches was that this had all the trappings of a 0-0 draw.

Such was the tightness of the marking at the back, the tracking back of the midfield units, that space was at a premium and all too often, even such incisive passers as Stevie Fulton and Giorgi Nemsadze were too often forced into square passes, or to pass the ball back in the direction of their own goals.

However, each play-maker produced one absolute top-drawer pass to set up the two goals.

Nemsadze was the first to find the key to unlocking the defensive stalemate - in 54 minutes when he laid the ball on a plate for Nacho Novo to put the visitors in front.

The build-up was terrific, Tom Cowan finding Novo with a lofted forward ball, which the Spaniard instantly laid off to the Georgian international, before turning his marker and sprinting into space, ready to fire Nemsadze’s first-time through ball through the legs of the out-rushing Colin Meldrum from 14 yards.

The equaliser came 24 minutes later, Fulton, on half-way, picking up a clearance from the Dundee rearguard and chipping forward the football equivalent of a pitch and run 8-iron. The ball cleared the head of Cowan then sat up invitingly for young Kris Boyd to fire a marvellous angled volley past the despairing dive of Julian Speroni and in off the underside of the bar from a very tight angle.

With this goal, Kilmarnock, from seemingly being down and out, found new energy and in the closing minutes they almost won the game, particularly when, after Speroni had failed to hold a cross from the left, Barry McLaughlin’s side-footed lob from the edge of the box was headed away from right under the bar by Gavin Rae.

In a dour first half, chances were few and far between. For Kilmarnock Freddie Dindeleux headed over in three minutes, while on 21 minutes a Paul di Giacomo effort was blocked at the near post, then scrambled away as home fans claimed in vain for a penalty.

Five minutes later, Speroni did well to clutch a Garry Hay shot, and, in first half injury time, Di Giacomo volleyed over from 18 yards.

Dundee, who perhaps had more territory and possession than their hosts, had fewer chances - there best falling to Novo in seven minutes, when he was sent through to round Meldrum by a superb Fabian Caballero pass, but, forced wide, his shot lacked pace and slipped past the post.

Highlight of the half, however, came in 16 minutes, when Kilmarnock’s Stevie Murray, all five foot four and ten stones of him, upended the foot taller, four stones heavier Lee Wilkie.

After the break Boyd and Brent Sancho had chances at either end, before Novo split the teams. Then, in 67 minutes, Nemsadze wasted a great chance to seal the game when, after ghosting past four challenges, he shot weakly at Meldrum. Gradually, Kilmarnock turned the screw however, and, minutes before Boyd’s super equaliser, Alan Mahood missed a real chance when he collected Barry Smith’s weak clearance and skied the ball into the stand behind the goal from 20 yards.

At the end, both managers had mixed emotions.

"Last week, if we had snatched a point it would have been undeserved," said Jim Jefferies.

"Today, had we taken nothing from the game, it would have been a travesty. We applied ourselves better. At 1-0 down, the kids could have shrunk into their shells, but they battled and Kris Boyd, who we have had a real go at during the week, came up with a superb equaliser."

"I don’t care how they go in, as long as they do," said Boyd.

"But I was very pleased with that strike although we felt we might have taken all three points."

Jim Duffy was "a wee bit disappointed to only draw".

"But, credit to Kilmarnock for the way they battled back from a goal down," he added.

"It’s a difficult place to come to and I’m not too disappointed with the result."

After the match, both bosses were involved in races to beat the midnight closure of the transfer window. Kilmarnock have agreed personal terms with Blackburn Rovers’ Gordon Grier, but were awaiting the outcome of a last-minute problem regarding the defender’s severance deal with Rovers.

Duffy, meanwhile, was waiting to hear if Georgia international Georgi Kinkladze would be joining his side, in a deal being brokered and organised by controversial Dens director Giovanni di Stefano.

Kilmarnock: Meldrum; Shields, McLaughlin, Dindeleux, Hay; Mahood, McDonald (McSwegan 77), Fulton, Murray; Boyd, Di Giacomo (Nish 65). Subs not used: Dubourdeau, Hessey, Dodds.

Dundee: Sancho, Wilkie, Mair (Hutchison 30), Cowan; Smith; Nemsadze, Rae, Brady; Caballero (Sara 72), Novo (Lovell 77); Subs not used: Langfield, Fotheringham.