Kilmarnock handed lifeline by late strike but they will have to beat Dundee at Rugby Park to preserve Premiership status
Kilmarnock’s 28-year residency in the Scottish top flight now depends on whether they can overturn a one-goal deficit.
They will be confident they can. More confident, certainly, than they were before Brandon Haunstrup pulled a goal back for the visitors with 14 minutes left. This strike hands Kilmarnock a lifeline. The tall full-back drove home after his initial shot was blocked by a combination of Danny Mullen and Cammy Kerr. The goal – from their only strike on target all night – was probably more than Tommy Wright’s side merited and he will demand a severe improvement in the second leg on Monday.
If Kilmarnock cannot salvage the tie then Charlie Adam will have played a significant part in their downfall. What an emotional evening this was for the Dundee skipper.
He led his boyhood team out in front of home fans for the first time and promptly won the toss. He elected to play down the Dens Park slope in the first half, which meant playing towards the 500 Dundee supporters housed in the Bobby Cox stand after the interval.
Already one up after Jordan McGhee’s tap in after five minutes, those lucky Dundee fans housed in this part of the ground had only a couple of minutes to wait before they were celebrating a goal scored under their noses.
It was of course the inspirational Adam who drilled home from 12 yards after Paul McMullan's cutback. The Dundee skipper’s celebration spoke of the personal heartache he has endured since his return to Scotland, with his mother having passed away shortly before Christmas. He arrived at Dundee in September with a promise to take his team back up. He still might do it.
It will take a big effort in Ayrshire. Kilmarnock cannot play any worse than they did here. That consideration will be of some comfort to their fans.
Their big name players struggled on a foul night at Dens. Kyle Lafferty saw one shot slip past Adam Legzdins’ far post in the first half. Chris Burke was booked for simulation shortly after the interval as he chased a long ball into the box.
Dundee fans will be haunted by memories of McMullan bearing down on the Kilmarnock goal with the chance to put his team two up after only nine minutes.
His effort lacked conviction, but Colin Doyle must be given credit for the block. The goalkeeper made another good save from Mullen in the second half to prevent Dundee possibly killing the tie by going three ahead.
Kilmarnock were rocked by Dundee’s opener. It was a goal which owed a lot to the Dundee fans. Not the select few at one end of the ground but two who happened to be on the pitch wearing dark blue.
Adam played a lofted pass wide to Cammy Kerr, an equally ardent Dundee supporter. He kept his eye on the ball to deliver an excellent first-time cross with his less favoured left foot that was met by the diving Mullen.
His header was tipped onto the post by Doyle but rebounded back into the sodden goalmouth and was prodded over by the determined McGhee. It was only the beginning of a frantic night and we can expect another fascinating if nervy 90 minutes – possibly more – on Monday.
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