Kilmarnock 5 - 0 Hamilton: Killie move into third with emphatic win
This was a distressingly poor performance from them and Rice was in no mood to sugar-coat his criticism of what he regarded as a lack of effort and courage from his team.
“If you hadn’t known the teams before coming here today you would have thought it was Kilmarnock who were fighting for their lives and the other team were just playing,” he said. “It was a role reversal. We’re fighting for our livelihoods and everything and you get that performance? Kilmarnock were everything we wanted to be. We were nowhere near it; second balls, crosses, anything.
“We had a plan to stay in the game and, with five minutes played, people don’t do their jobs and we’re 1-0 down. We were lucky to be still in at half-time and I said that to the players. By the end of the game we were lucky that it was only 5-0. Kilmarnock were excellent but, by God, we were bad.”
Kilmarnock deserve credit for a fluent, ruthless display which moved them above Aberdeen into third place.
The breakthrough came early enough but Scotland under-21 left-back Gary Taylor had waited 119 games to finally record his first senior goal.
He finished with such aplomb – a venomous but controlled half-volley from an acute angle after Youssouf Mulumbu’s perfectly-weighted diagonal pass – that you could have been forgiven for thinking that such strikes are routine for him.
Kilmarnock utterly dominated the opening exchanges and should have been awarded a penalty kick in the 16th minute when goalkeeper Gary Woods collected a Taylor cross only to allow it to slip between his legs and Lennard Sowah knocked Rory McKenzie to the deck before he could force the loose ball into the gaping net.
No stranger when it comes to awarding penalties when he shouldn’t, referee Andrew Dallas didn’t point to the spot when he ought to have done. Fortunately, it didn’t matter.
Accies held out until the interval but it was one-way traffic after that. Conor McAleny drilled home the second from six yards following a run and cross from McKenzie, who also teed up Youssouf Mulumbu to smash in the third.
Steve Clarke’s substitutions were more effective than Rice’s, with Chris Burke curling in a fourth goal from the byline with the outside of his right boot and Mikael Ndjoli slaloming his way through the visitors’ defence to complete the scoring.
Now, with seven games remaining, Taylor has his sights set on claiming a Europa League slot for next season.
“I would say Europe has got to be the aim now. We managed to secure top-six and we can’t just let that be our season.
“It was a really good performance from the team and now it’s onto Wednesday. Hibs are flying at the moment and it’s a massive game. It’ll be tough, but if we can pick up points in the next two games going into the split, it’ll be huge for us.”
Killie No.2 Alex Dyer echoed those sentiments.
“That was satisfying; a great day’s work,” he said. “We had a lot of chances and maybe should’ve come in at half-time two or three goals up. They came in and the gaffer had a good chat with them and we put things right in the second half.
“Every single one of the lads was excellent today and we’re up to third. The result is also brilliant for our goal difference.
“Our target at the start of the season was to finish in the top six, we’ve achieved that and now we’ll see where that takes us.”