Kilmarnock showed a side of themselves yesterday which epitomises their success since Steve Clarke’s arrival, demonstrating that they can still win, even when they are not at their most fluent best.
Jordan Jones was the difference between the sides, the winger creating the only goal of the game for Stuart Findlay.
Killie manager Clarke said: “I thought Kirk Broadfoot and Stuart Findlay were outstanding. It wasn’t our best performance, but as usual, loads of character. We never really got into a rhythm and didn’t create too much going forward, little moments of quality can win you a game and we got that from Jordan Jones’ cross and the header from Findlay.”
Such has been the transformation in Kilmarnock since Clarke’s arrival in October, the Rugby Park club have now only lost twice in 21 matches, both against Aberdeen. And just for good measure, such is their form they have not failed to score in each of their previous 21 matches.
In total contrast, rock bottom Thistle have now gone ten games without a victory, their last coming at the end of January, and have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four. Relegation looms ominously unless they can find some form.
Killie’s record at Firhill has been remarkable, not having tasted defeat in their previous ten visits stretching back 16 years to November 2002. But Killie had to be patient. They thought they had made the breakthrough after 26 minutes when Youssouf Mulumbu sent through a sensational pass to Jones, but Jags goalkeeper Ryan Scully raced out of his area to block. The ball broke to Kris Boyd, but his first-time low effort from 20 yards was cleared off the line by Christie Elliott.
Killie, now unbeaten in their last 13 games in all competitions, showed why they have such an impressive record, getting the winner in 35 minutes. Gary Dicker put Jones free on the left and his superbly flighted cross picked out Findlay to power a header past Scully from 12 yards.
Alan Archibald’s side have failed to score a single goal in their last four outings, and their lack of attacking prowess was all too evident with just one effort on target in the first period, when Andrew McCarthy fired in a 20-yard drive, but straight at goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.
Thistle looked much more positive after the break and in 50 minutes Chris Erskine’s fierce shot from 18 yards was beaten away by MacDonald and one minute later Erskine turned provider for Conor Sammon, but MacDonald blocked brilliantly at the striker’s feet.
That now takes the Jags’ woeful strike record to 531 minutes without a goal.
Partick manager Archibald said: “The performance was better and we started the game brightly enough. The reaction at half-time was positive but things aren’t falling for us. There was a real desire to get the goal back but we need the breaks. We can only concentrate on ourselves.
“The biggest thing is about keeping the ball out. If you can keep clean sheets we can maybe go and nick a goal.”