Chris Burke survived the curse of being on the cover of yesterday’s match programme (a fate which usually sees the recipient collect an injury which rules them out of contention on the day before the game) by putting Hearts to the sword with a devastating display of old-fashioned wing play.
In this instance, Burke, 36 next month, was even pictured celebrating after scoring a goal, something he went on to do twice while also creating another to damage interim manager Austin MacPhee’s hopes of succeeding Craig Levein as the man in charge at Tynecastle.
This was a truly abysmal showing from his charges, who could easily have lost by a wider margin.
MacPhee did not attempt to gloss over the deficiencies in their performance but he insisted that the result will not wreck his chances of landing the job he covets more than the director of football position, which he may have to settle for.
“The reality is I’ve taken the team six times and won four of them,” he said. “Today was very disappointing in the manner we lost very preventable goals in an eight-minute period. We now have a huge game next Sunday at Ibrox where we need to cut out these basic errors.
“When people are getting emotional, [owner] Ann Budge stays very practical. I don’t think she’d run to a decision after a victory and I don’t think she’d rush to a decision after a defeat. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
“I don’t think the uncertainty affects the players. The job of a caretaker manager… you have to realise the reality of the situation. You don’t have the full authority a head coach would have and you need to manage within those parameters. I understand that, with each result, the narrative changes.
“The most frustrating thing is that Kilmarnock didn’t have to offer moments of brilliance to win the game. We had three preventable situations where we haven’t managed the game properly.”
There was a scare for them in the second minute when Burke curled in a cross from the right which Eamonn Brophy was about to convert until goalkeeper Joel Pereira dived in front of him to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Michael Smith then came close two minutes later with a delivery which eluded team-mates and opponents alike and was about to sneak in at the far post before Laurentiu Branescu belatedly reacted to push it away at the last second.
However, any suggestion that this would be a nip-and-tuck affair were soon demolished. The hosts drew first blood when Mohamed El Makrini took an age to play in Burke and appeared to have left the winger with too acute an angle, only for the veteran to fire a rising drive across Pereira and into his top right-hand corner.
It’s fair to say that Hearts did not respond well to adversity. Five minutes later Brophy was unmarked when he headed Burke’s sumptuous cross firmly behind Pereira from eight yards.
The visitors were then caught out by a classic sucker punch. They sent their big men up for a corner but left themselves short at the back when Killie broke. El Makrini once again supplied
Burke but the 35-year-old still had much to do. However, he wrong-footed two defenders and sidefooted home from 15 yards.
Hearts appeared shell-shocked by this turn of events; they certainly offered little to suggest they could effect a reversal of fortunes. With Uche Ikpeazu an unlikely and ineffective right winger and their midfield failing to make any impact whatsoever on proceedings, it was difficult to envisage a way back into the game.
Teenage left-back Aaron Hickey had been utterly bamboozled by Burke and was replaced at the break, although the youngster is entitled to think he should have received more help from the players in front of him.
Clevid Dikamona had a glorious opportunity to reduce the leeway in the 50th minute but the defender could not hit the target with a free header from Oliver Bozanic’s corner.