Kilmarnock: Strong settled signs at Rugby Park but transfer re-inforcements required

No-one is ever expecting the finished article in a pre-season friendly, but a first look at newly promoted Kilmarnock shows a sound basis for Derek McInnes to build on for their Premiership return.

Naming a strong first-team for Friday’s 4-1 win over Falkirk, McInnes took from the game what he was looking for “integration, understanding, match sharpness and fitness”. With a team based upon his Championship winners much of these principles were already in place from last season.

Rangers loan recruit Lewis Mayo slotted seamlessly into the defence and Kerr McInroy complemented Brad Lyons at the 3-5-2 anchor point, sharing the busy ball-winning burden at the base of midfield. Other than the two new signings it was business as usual for a settled Killie team which counted three headers amongst their haul.

It will be a facet of next season for sure, with Ash Taylor especially, who scored two.

"We had a real height advantage in the box. That's why we’re disappointed we lost a goal from a set-play,” added the manager. “But we looked like we could score from most set-plays and that's important for where we are going to go in the Premiership.”

Preparation for the league kick-off against Dundee United is the ultimate aim and now Killie head to Spain where they face Charlton Athletic and Lincoln Red Imps next week. They have been one of the first to begin pre-season training, making an early start after their title-deciding win over Arbroath to build some momentum in the three months between that epic night at Rugby Park and July 30, and it has started on the right note.

Innes Cameron scored Kilmarnock’s other two and is feeling early benefits. “It's good to get a couple of goals early doors to take confidence into the friendly games next week and going into the cup games and then league. It's a quick pre-season so being up to speed quickly helps massively.”

A positive start, but how much truly can be read into a 4-1 win over a team two divisions below?

Kilmarnock players salute their fans at full-time after a pre-season friendly win over Falkirk. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

"Pre-season results are never too important but winning mentality is,” added McInnes. His side has started as they mean to go on. They were tested but never troubled by Falkirk, though the Bairns did try to exploit the high-drifting defence. Quicker forwards of the top flight could be capable.

But that aerial strength is a force to be reckoned with. Taylor, Mayo and Jack Sanders’ height will be crucial at both ends of the park, not to mention Oli Shaw and Kyle Lafferty in attack and deliveries from Fraser Murray and Rory McKenzie.

His starting line-up could conceivably and comfortably start the Premier Sports Cup campaign, or even the Premiership next month but, if McInnes wants to make a dent in the top six like recently promoted second-tier champions have, he will need to build around the foundations already in place. Beyond Blair Alston, the strong first XI and fringe players like Cameron and Danny Armstrong, Killie still need strengthening, both in depth and in first-team enhancements.

It is still early days. Squads have yet to be settled and more players available as more return to training. While an established Kilmarnock team could still start the new season, it could be different and stronger still come September 1.

Ash Taylor's aerial presence will be key for Kilmarnock and he scored twice against Falkirk. (Picture: Michael Gillen)

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Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Kilmarnock's Kyle Lafferty and Falkirk's Aidan Nesbitt. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
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