Motherwell 0-2 Kilmarnock: Well deserved victory at Fir Park

Kilmarnock's Craig Slater (right) scores the second goal.
Kilmarnock's Craig Slater (right) scores the second goal.
  • Kilmarnock scorers: Kiltie 55; Slater 61
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Graham Alexander, the former Scotland full-back and Fleetwood Town boss who is on the shortlist to replace Gary Locke as manager of Kilmarnock, was an interested spectator at Fir Park yesterday but he must have wondered how he could improve on this display from the Ayrshire side.

Interim manager Lee McCulloch once again proved to be more than just a safe pair of hands as his side ran out comfortable winners.

Kilmarnock's Tope Obadeyi (left) and Morgaro Gomis.

Kilmarnock's Tope Obadeyi (left) and Morgaro Gomis.

The victory saw them overhaul their hosts, who now occupy the play-off position after six league matches without a win.

McCulloch, though, still refuses to put himself forward for the vacancy created by Locke’s dismissal two weeks ago.

“It does not change my mind with regards to the managerial position,” he said. “I am taking it a day at a time and the players have not had a day off since myself and Peter Leven took over at the club.

“Nothing will change with that and we will be in on Sunday ready to go again until I am told otherwise.

“This gives us some momentum going into the Rangers game on Tuesday as confidence has been low. Hopefully, the players are now looking forward to it.”

The home side had received a boost before the game when James McFadden, who had been expected to join Philadelphia Union, saw his move to Major League Soccer fall through. The former Scotland striker has signed on until the end of the season.

Unfortunately for under-fire manager Mark McGhee, it was the only uplifting news the Lanarkshire side received this weekend.

They were second best to everything here and could have fallen behind in the ninth minute when Josh Magennis set up Greg Kiltie for a shot which, but for a deflection off Kieran Kennedy, would have nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of Connor Ripley’s net.

Killie came close again eight minutes later when Tope Obadeyi dispossessed Steven Hammell 25 yards out before cutting inside to fire in a shot which Ripley was happy to parry.

The home side were in the goalkeeper’s debt again a minute later when he managed to turn over a venomous free-kick from Craig Slater.

It was one-way traffic and Hammell’s poor afternoon continued when he was cautioned for a professional foul on Josh Magennis.

Ripley came to the rescue again from the resulting free-kick, clawing out Steven Smith’s effort at full stretch and he was also called into action in the 42nd minute when he held a full-blooded drive from Rory McKenzie.

McGhee replaced the ineffective Lionel Ainsworth with top scorer Louis Moult at the break but it was the visitors who drew first blood when the impressive Kiltie converted Smith’s deep cross from point-blank range.

Six minutes later their lead was doubled when Craig Slater accepted a pass from Kiltie and beat Ripley with a crisp, low drive from 18 yards.

Moult hit the bar with a header during time added on but they got exactly what they deserved from this match.

The home support had jeered their players from the field after the opening 45 minutes and did so even more lustily at the end and McGhee admits he did not see this result coming.

“It was certainly the poorest performance since I’ve been here – the system we played seemed to stifle us and we couldn’t seem to find options,” he said.

“It was as if we were log-jammed and we didn’t play anything like we thought we could. So we changed it at half-time and going to four in the middle made things simpler.

“We started better and at least got a lot of crosses in but we just couldn’t score and, eventually, we succumbed. It was hugely disappointing.

“Losing is a body blow, it really is. Dundee United on Tuesday is a game in hand and it’s an opportunity to put distance between us and them and make it really difficult for United.

“But I’m not saying we’re going to go there and win because we’ve got to do a lot better than we did today.”