Play-off place high price of Kilmarnock inconsistency

Partick Thistle's Christie Elliott battles with Kilmarnock's Mark O'Hara during a game in which Kilmarnock reverted to ineptitude. Picture: SNS
Partick Thistle's Christie Elliott battles with Kilmarnock's Mark O'Hara during a game in which Kilmarnock reverted to ineptitude. Picture: SNS
  • Partick Thistle scorers: Lawless 32, Doolan 66
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The common refrain from Kilmarnock employees in the aftermath of being consigned to the relegation play-offs on Saturday evening was that inconsistency has been their undoing.

The despair over form fluctuations related to the fact that, ahead of being completely ineffectual against a tidy Partick Thistle, the Rugby Park club had horsed Hamilton Accies 4-0. Three weeks earlier, Lee Clark’s side had also put St Johnstone to the sword by a 3-0 margin. Yet, the reality is that these have been diamonds in the dirt.

The mud-splattered season that now threatens to prevent Kilmarnock enjoying a 24th-straight season in Scottish football’s top-flight has borne witness to only four league wins for the Ayrshire club in the past six months. Now, that is a pretty consistent inability to beat opponents.

Now they are left beating themselves up going into the final two, now meaningless, league games that will give way to a the relegation play-off final first leg away to either Falkirk or Hibernian a week on Tuesday. No-one was more ready to aim the punches inwardly than striker Kris Boyd.

“We did our talking during the week, and we asked the fans to come and back us,” he said. “For the amount that showed up against Partick – I think there was around 6,000 – we’ve let ourselves down and we’ve let the club down again. It is why we are where we are.”

The fact that Boyd has only five league goals in 28 league appearances hasn’t helped Kilmarnock avoid 11th. To put it in context, when Kris Doolan fastened on to a ball over the top and produced an emphatic, first-time finish to make it 2-0 just after the hour, it was the striker’s fifth league goal against Kilmarnock alone this season. It followed an equally sumptuous 20-yard drive from Steven Lawless on the half-hour that made a mockery of pre-match suggestions that Alan Archibald’s side could be dragged into a play-off dogfight.

Clark has said he retains “total belief” in his side’s ability to win the play-off final but the post-match comments of an honest Boyd hardly exuded such confidence. And the 32-year-old knows how problematic such a two-legged make-or-break can be after he was with Rangers when they were broken by Motherwell in these deciders a year ago.

“We’ve been given a game plan and over the last two months [under Clark] we’ve stuck to it and we’ve been good. But against Partick it was like back to what it was at the beginning of the season, with people running around here, there and everywhere without any structure to what we were doing.

“But we won together last week as a team, and we lose together this week as a team. So now we go again Wednesday night, and Saturday, and then the following week.

“We all know how difficult play-offs can be to play in and hopefully over these two games we can come out victorious. If you go from the way we played last week to the way we played this week then you are going to find yourself in a relegation battle. We have been in it all season and it’s not changing now.

“We know we have a massive two weeks ahead of us and it’s up to us to get ourselves out of the trouble we have got ourselves in all season.”