Stalemate at Rugby Park
Kilmarnock: Mackay; Queen, Webb, Lidington, McFadzean (McDonald 83); M. Smith, Hawkshaw (McLean 46), Paterson, Bojaj; Trialist, Cameron (Morrison 72).
St Johnstone: Mackenzie, Watson, McCann, Comrie, Gordon, Page, Johnson, Jardine, Hunter, Docherty, Simpson.
An unnamed trialist scored a superb goal to help Killie earn a point in an uninspiring Development League contest against St Johnstone.
The trialist, who switched between both wings throughout the game, scored with superb technique and accuracy to put Killie ahead after 55 minutes.
Scott McLean whipped in a dangerous cross from a corner towards the trialist waiting at the far post. He controlled the ball and fired an unstoppable volley into top left corner of the net.
While his goal was something to behold, his overall display was nowhere near as mind-blowing. He worked hard and chased loose balls but has to become more involved in games if he is going to earn a contract.
Both Killie and St Johnstone were in fact, relatively average on the night. Neither team expressed a clear urgency to score or a desire to collect the three points on offer. The word ‘lethargic’ springs to mind.
The home side fielded a strong line-up including Martin Smith, Dean Hawkshaw – who was making his comeback from injury – and Flo Bojaj.
However, the first team lads failed to stand out above the rest in an uneventful first half which featured just two shots on target – both from Killie.
The first was a powerful drive from talented midfielder Jack Paterson and the other a tame Martin Smith free-kick which was comfortably held by Saints keeper Ben MacKenzie.
Hawkshaw was substituted at half-time – it was apparent after just 25 minutes of play that he was well under the required fitness level needed to perform in this encounter, even despite the sluggish nature of the match.
The only other highlight of the opening period was when Bojaj got on the end of a loose ball in behind the Saints defence. He took his effort first time but could only find the side-netting.
Lively winger McLean was the man replacing Hawkshaw at the interval and almost immediately, he began to exert an influence on proceedings with his flair and quick movements on the left flank.
Striker Innes Cameron almost fired Killie in front two minutes after the restart when his fierce strike was well stopped by MacKenzie – Bojaj’s flick to set him up was delightful.
Bojaj has talent, there’s no question about that. But he isn’t in Lee Clark’s immediate first team plans, thus the prospect of seeing him in a Killie shirt past January is unlikely.
Then came the first goal after 55 minutes, executed brilliantly by the unnamed trialist and not to mention, courtesy of McLean’s excellent corner delivery.
Holding onto a lead is something the U20 lads have proper difficulty achieving. And it was no different here when St Johnstone struck back moments after the breakthrough goal. Deserved? Probably not. It came out of nowhere. The ball fell to Joseph Johnston inside the box following some slack defending and he finished with ease past keeper Devlin Mackay.
Saints were soon filled with optimism and a willingness to score another. They forced Mackay into making two excellent saves, one hit by Jamie Docherty from close range and the other from striker George Hunter after getting on the end of a loose ball.
With 10 minutes left, the game’s brief intensity began to falter and the team from Perth gradually dropped back, aiming for a draw. The superb keeper Mackay made yet another important stop for Killie – denying Docherty again inside the six yard box – in the final minutes of the match.
That was to be the final moment of significance in a game that saw very few critical opportunities, especially for the away side. As mentioned above, lethargy from both outfits contributed to the game’s lack of edge.
The draw keeps Paul Stephenson’s side in 15th – third bottom – with 14 points. Killie face a trip to Dunfermline next Tuesday evening with a win desperately needed.
Fulltime: Kilmarnock 1-1 St Johnstone