Kilmarnock 2 - 1 St Mirren: Hosts a point off top after narrow win

Kilmarnock players celebrate making it 2-0. Pic: SNS/Sammy Turner
Kilmarnock players celebrate making it 2-0. Pic: SNS/Sammy Turner
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Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke praised his side and their large support as they rounded off 2018 with another Ladbrokes Premiership victory.

Goals from Stuart Findlay and Jordan Jones fired the Ayrshire side to a 2-1 success against St Mirren in front of more than seven thousand fans at Rugby Park.

Alfie Jones did pull one back for the Buddies but it was not enough as Clarke’s side recorded a fourth successive home victory to keep on the pace at the top of the table, just a point behind joint leaders Celtic and Rangers in third place.

“It would have been nicer to do it a little more comfortably but it’s difficult when you come up against these teams who are scrapping for points,” Clarke said.

“We had the game won after 15 minutes and then switched off at a set-play which disrupted our rhythm a little bit.

“It was great to see the fans back. I said to [assistant manager] Alex Dyer a few weeks ago that we should be aiming for around 7,000 for this game given the run we’ve been on. They’ve been turning up in massive numbers away from home so it was great to see them here today. Seven thousand is a great effort and long may it continue.

“The players have brought back the fans with their performances on the pitch. They deserve the credit, not me. It’s been a good year for the club.”

The hosts edged a breathless first half after a vibrant start that saw them put their shocked opponents to the sword.

Just three minutes were gone when Findlay nodded in the opener from a Greg Stewart cross. The quality was all in the delivery from Stewart, Killie’s biggest creative threat throughout, and Findlay simply had to divert his header into the corner of the net.

If Stewart was the provider for the first, then he was the sole architect seven minutes later as the Ayrshire side doubled their advantage. His mazy run almost defied belief as he jinked past numerous defenders on the byline.

He then simply helped the ball into a dangerous area where Jordan Jones was on hand to apply the finishing touch to grab his second goal in four days.

At that stage it looked as if damage limitation was going to be he order of the day for the beleaguered Buddies, but Alfie Jones soon gave them hope with a deft header.

Again the quality was in the set-up, with Adam Hammill’s curling delivery glanced past the despairing Bachmann for the defender’s second Saints goal.

It seemed to give the Buddies, and their vocal away support, a shot in the arm and they soon set about finding an equaliser.

Hammill was once again involved, this time at the end of the move after some good work from Cammy Smith. The Englishman really should have done better as his shot from the edge of the box sailed over the crossbar.

The second-half was a less eventful affair with the only real chance of note arriving to the hosts’ Stewart after another trademark jinking run.

His right footed shot was weak on that occasion, but it mattered not as Kilmarnock ended the calendar year with another three points.

Oran Kearney’s St Mirren, on the other hand, find themselves in a battle to retain their top-flight status after a first half of the season that yielded only 12 points.

Defeat at Rugby Park was the Paisley side’s fourth in five matches and the Northern Irishman cut a frustrated figure as he lamented his side’s negative start.

“When you come to a side who are flying and have a big prize that they’re chasing then it’s so important that you start the game well and give yourself a foothold in the game,” Kearney said.

“The set-piece was disappointing but it happens in football. I said to the boys that I can accept that but what I can’t accept is the reaction to it and it shook our guys to the bones for the best part of 30 minutes.

“The feeling is double-edged today because I’m glad we are where we are. There will be fresh players because we need a fresh impetus and that will definitely come in January.”