New signing Fraser Murray and old hand Chris Burke shine as Kilmarnock make winning start to Premier Sports Cup campaign

Kilmarnock laid some solid foundations for Tommy Wright’s rebuild of Scotland’s oldest professional football club as they opened their Premier Sports Cup campaign with a victory at East Kilbride.

Fraser Murray turns away to celebrate giving Kilmarnock the lead in their Premier Sports Cup match against East Kilbride at K-Park. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Fraser Murray turns away to celebrate giving Kilmarnock the lead in their Premier Sports Cup match against East Kilbride at K-Park. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

It was a composed performance from Wright’s much-changed side as they begin their first season outside of the top flight for 28 years.

Killie were more comfortable winners than the 2-0 scoreline indicates and there were early signs of fluency and purpose in their play which provided plenty of encouragement for the travelling supporters inside K-Park.

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Two of Wright’s new recruits, former Hibs midfielder Fraser Murray and ex-Ross County full-back Jason Naismith, gave his team the ideal start to their Group G campaign against their spirited Lowland League opponents.

Kilmarnock winger Chris Burke is challenged by East Kilbride midfielder Blair Malcolm during the Premier Sports Cup match at K-Park. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Killie will clearly face sterner tests in the Championship when they bid to bounce back immediately from the despair of relegation but Wright looks to have put together a squad capable of meeting the challenge.

While their starting line-up was barely recognisable from the team they fielded during their calamitous end to last season, with eight of Wright’s summer signings included, it was a familiar face who provided their liveliest attacking presence.

At 37, Chris Burke is still capable of the kind of trickery and direct running which unsettles defenders. East Kilbride left-back Gregg Wylde, another former Rangers player, had his hands full trying to contain the veteran winger.

It was Burke who forced Conor Brennan into the first save of the contest, the home goalkeeper doing well to throw himself to his right to keep out a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Fraser Murray, excellent throughout, then came close with a header before striker Innes Cameron sent an effort against the crossbar from Burke’s precise cross.

But while East Kilbride found it difficult to make any sustained headway towards the visitors’ goal, they almost snatched the lead six minutes before the break. Killie goalkeeper Zach Hemming, on loan from Middlesbrough, did brilliantly to keep out a fierce shot from Neil McLaughlin after neat set-up play from Joao Vitoria.

Kilmarnock, captained by former Raith and Dunfermline defender Euan Murray, were rarely threatened at the back otherwise.

They made the breakthrough four minutes into the second half when Blair Alston sent Fraser Murray racing down the left and he showed excellent footwork to cut inside and beat Brennan with a neat finish.

The pressure began to tell on the East Kilbride defence, marshalled by former Scotland international Stephen Saunders, and after Wylde had cleared another Fraser Murray effort off the line, Kilmarnock grabbed their second goal in the 62nd minute.

Fraser Murray’s corner from the left was met by Naismith and after his initial effort was blocked by Wylde, he nodded in the rebound from close range.

Killie substitute Daniel Armstrong struck the crossbar in the closing stages and while some of their finishing was wasteful, it was a satisfying afternoon’s work nonetheless from Wright’s perspective.

East Kilbride (4-2-3-1): Brennan, Stevenson, Saunders, Old, Wylde; Millar, B.Malcolm (Rodgers 82); C.Malcolm (Stewart 82), McLaughlin (Brady 74), Vitoria; Elliott. Subs not used: Richardson, McAninch, Kean.

Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1): Hemming, Naismith, E.Murray, Sanders (Stokes 82), Haunstrup; McGinn, Alston (McKenzie 71); Lyons (Smith 82), F.Murray, Burke (Armstrong 71); Cameron (Connell 82). Subs not used: Walker, Craig, McArthur.

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