Championship: Kilmarnock keeper Zach Hemming has high drama at Hamilton as Arbroath stay top
The Championship won’t be shutting down like the cinch Premiership, but Kilmarnock’s win over Hamilton had enough incident, action and penalty drama to cover the winter break and more.
Five goals, three penalties, a red card – and just a 500 supporters allowed to witness the drama, much of which can be attributed to referee John Beaton and goalkeeper Zach Hemming.
They may be limited in number but those in attendance can still make themselves heard – and it’s to the Kilmarnock number one’s detriment that restrictions denied him away fans present to hail his achievement of saving TWO second half penalties. A moment of madness, where the goalkeeper raced from his box and clattered Andy Ryan for a needless red card at 3-1 up 12 minutes from time, probably spared him an ear-bashing from otherwise home-based viewers too.
One of the criticisms levelled at Kilmarnock under previous manager Tommy Wright, rightly or wrongly, was a lack of attacking football and scoring fewer goals than their promotion rivals but was not missing under James Fowler’s temporary charge. It was engorssing viewing, from first minute, to last.
Few inside the FOYS Stadium, other than Lee Hodgson, saw cause to claim for a penalty seven minutes in after his cross struck Matthew Shiels but referee Beaton gave Callum Hendry the chance to cancel out Hamilton’s even earlier opener through Ronan Hughes.
Kilmarnock made four changes to Wright’s last selection in the abandoned match against Dunfermline but switching Fraser Murray from a front-three to a supporting role midway through the first half led to captain Chris Stokes curling in from the edge of the box ten minutes before the break.
It was a lovely finish from the captain, and his team-mates combined after the break for Murray to tap in the third with some determined, yet slick football but sublime quickly became ridiculous.
Hamilton’s two penalties, the first for a handball decision saw Andy Ryan was denied low to Hemming’s left and then a blatant push by Stephen McGinn gave David Moyo the opportunity to make amends, but Hemming’s dive to the opposite side completed his double before his moment of madness late on.
Hamilton had started the game with a tribute to one of their longest-serving supporters of more than 70 years, Bill Smith, with a minute’s silence. Less than five minutes later, his grandson, Lewis Smith, set-up the home side’s opener with a low cross that was not properly cleared and rifled powerfully beyond Hemmings by Ronan Hughes, but it proved the only one that did so, the goalkeeper’s replacement Sam Walker conceding a late free-kick from Josh Mullin and then beating out an even later chance for Ryan.
The result returned Kilmarnock to the top four, but they maintain pace with leaders Arbroath who were 3-0 winners over Dunfermline at East End Park with goals from Michael McKenna and Anton Dowds following Rhys Breen’s own goal.
Raith Rovers also lost ground on Dick Campbell’s side at the top, the third-placed Fife side falling to a 2-0 defeat to Ayr United at Somerset Park after Tomi Adeloye’s double.
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