Kilmarnock 1-2 Motherwell: Murphy’s brace gives Steelmen three points

A CLINICAL brace from Jamie Murphy was enough to give Motherwell their first win of the season against a shot-shy Kilmarnock who were all jab and no hook.

It is still early days of course, but on this showing the Fir Park men will be confident of pushing for a league position similar to last term to ensure their passports don’t lie gathering dust too long.

The importance of a first victory of the season was not lost on visiting manager, Stuart McCall, who can now turn his attentions to Levante in the Europa League on Thursday. He said: “Delighted with the result and also the way we went about it as we had chances and were always a threat, and I think we deserved to win.

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“Obviously we are underdogs against Levante, but it would be nice to go to Spain with a decent result.

“I felt we were in the tie against Panathinaikos for two-thirds of it and, if we had been a little more clinical, things could have been different, although the lads took a look from these games despite the result.”

In contrast, Kenny Shiels felt his Kilmarnock team were a little hard done by: “It could have gone either way. The difference was their forwards were better than ours, but then they did have to rely on us giving them two goals to get the win.”

The home team, despite their manager’s own admission of them being somewhat waif-like in forward areas, elected to keep new signing Borja Perez on the bench and the former Alcorcan striker would have been impressed with his colleagues in the opening exchanges as their passing game pinned the visitors back. Indeed, only a succession of last-ditch blocks prevented them from seriously testing Darren Randolph in the Well goal.

Despite making a more than bright opening to the game the hosts quickly fizzled out, and within 12 minutes found themselves a goal behind when Lee Johnson needlessly gifted possession to Jamie Murphy who took full advantage by skipping past two powderpuff challenges and slotting easily past the advancing Cammy Bell. Take nothing away from the fleet-footed Murphy who did tremendously, but it was a defensive horror show.

This, though, was not an isolated incident of Kilmarnock exhibiting alarming frailty at the back. Either side of the opener, Michael Higdon was afforded time and space to get away strikes which narrowly missed the target having all too easily bullied his marker from straightforward long balls down the middle.

Kilmarnock eventually clawed their way back into the game, and came agonisingly close on the cusp of the half hour mark when Rory Boulding drove inches wide at the end of an incisive passing move. It was a warning the visitors failed to heed as, within seconds, parity had be restored through a stunning left-foot strike from Gary Harkins.

The game had developed into an enjoyable end-to-end spectacle, but while Motherwell were resolute at the back with young Shaun Hutchinson excellent, the home defence continued to struggle woefully with anything through the centre, and this was again their undoing as Murphy again struck eight minutes from the interval.

Not only did they allow Higdon to play through his strike partner, but they also failed to track Murphy who had all the time he could ever dream of to waltz past Bell and stroke home. If the decidedly edgy home support was hoping for better in the second period, they were to be disappointed as for all their team at times knocked the ball around in innocuous areas of the field, they continued to be horribly porous at the back.

Murphy could have had a hat-trick had he not rushed an angled shot, and Henrik Ojammaa was a whisker away with a curling effort as the visitors found chasms on the break.

Killie were guilty of over-playing with Randolph only called upon to deny sub Danny Racchi who almost caught the keeper out with a well-struck 25-yard drive. If anything, Motherwell will have headed home feeling their margin of victory could have been greater with Higdon firing wide late-on, and only a superb stop from Bell denying Fraser Kerr.