Derek McInnes makes instant Kilmarnock impact after winning start at Queen of the South

Hands thrust deep into the pockets of a natty new Kilmarnock FC-branded gilet, it was like he had never been away.

Kilmarnock's Chris Stokes celebrates scoring the opener in the 2-0 win over Queen of the South (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Kilmarnock's Chris Stokes celebrates scoring the opener in the 2-0 win over Queen of the South (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Derek McInnes watched his skipper Chris Stokes bundle in the first goal of a new era at Kilmarnock on what may prove to have been a significant day in the Championship promotion race.

The Rugby Park side posted note of some new-found intent following McInnes’ high-profile capture. He made four changes to a struggling side and saw his new charges secure a victory after Oli Shaw, who won and then converted a penalty in the second half, struck a decisive second.

On what was an almost perfect return for McInnes, the teams above Kilmarnock both dropped points. The Ayrshire side, the pre-season title favourites, could be top by as soon as Friday night if they can secure another win on the road against Partick Thistle at Firhill.

As sleet fell at Palmerston Park, McInnes marked this maiden victory by shaking the hand of opposite number Allan Johnston and then the hand of every member of his own bench. Restrictions meant it felt very low key. The only sound was the grumbling of 500 home fans.

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McInnes will have to wait to be introduced to his club’s own supporters but he knows they are watching and he understands the demands. These fans have every right to be excited by the prospects. This was a thoroughly professional performance and deserved win although Queens were upset by the penalty award, with the incident – a Roberto Nditi push on Shaw - having clearly occurred outside the box.

McInnes clearly relished being back. He seemed in such a rush to deliver his first half-time talk since March that he sprinted across the pitch to the away dressing room as soon as referee Colin Steven brought an end to the first half.

He was still passing on instructions to right back Lee Hodson as the teams lined up for the second half. McInnes had long-time No 2 Tony Docherty beside him as well as Paul Sheerin, another member of his backroom staff at Aberdeen.

Stokes struck three minutes before half time to give Kilmarnock some tangible reward for a half of almost incessant pressure. The skipper reacted well after Shaw’s header from Chris Burke’s corner had hit the post.

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Queen of the South had earlier relied on a miraculous double clearance off the line from Euan East to prevent them falling behind. He was there in the right place at the right time when Rory McKenzie stabbed the ball past 'keeper Josh Rae after a defence-splitting pass from the left from Brandon Haunstrup. And East was in the right place at the right time again moments later to block Burke’s follow-up effort.

Queens were not completely out of contention. Skipper Josh Todd went close with two shots. But Killie were dominant and in truth should have been ahead inside the opening two minutes, which would have been quite a start for McInnes. Shaw volleyed just over.

The former Hibs striker did feature on the scoresheet eventually, calmly converting a penalty after being lightly pushed by Nditi. The offence did seem to have occurred outside the box and fans in the old main stand at Palmerston were quick to remind the referee of this at regular intervals in the 20 minutes that remained.

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