Andy Ross at Rugby Park
Motherwell’s hopes of moving into second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League were dashed after falling to a 2-0 defeat against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Paul Heffernan blasted home at the second attempt after a good stop by Darren Randolph and the Dubliner added his second from the penalty spot to complete a miserable day for the Fir Park side.
Reduced ticket prices and recent good fortunes made for a big game atmosphere and the Steelmen were roared on by a large travelling support in the Chadwick Stand.
The Kilmarnock players were applauded on to the park by Stuart McCall’s men, following their League Cup triumph last Sunday.
A minute’s silence was perfectly observed in tribute of Kellie defender’s father, Jack Kelly, who tragically died after suffering a heart-attack just after the full-time whistle at Hampden.
The opening ten minutes of the game saw the play swing from end-to-end without either keeper being tested.
Only a good clearance from Michael Nelson prevented Michael Higdon profiting from good build up play between Henrik Ojamaa and Chris Humphrey.
Tom Hateley’s dangerous corner on 25 minutes was nodded on by Ojamaa but the Killie defence easily dealt with the danger.
Dieter Van Tornhout saw his effort deflected past the post by Steven Hammell as the hosts began to show some attacking intent.
The Belgian striker then forced Darren Randolph to race from his goal as he raced in on goal following a neat through ball by James Fowler.
Van Tornhout managed the first shot on target of the first-half when he rolled an effort at Randolph on 35 minutes.
Killie came agonisingly close to opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time when Paul Heffernan’s shot drifted just wide of Randolph’s right-hand post.
Kenny Shiels was forced into a change at half-time when he brought on Welsh keeper Kyle Letheren in place of Bell.
The home side made a bright start to the second half and they were rewarded four minutes after the restart when Heffernan bagged the opening goal.
Randolph initially managed to block from Killie’s top-scorer but he recovered well to slam home the rebound.
Gary Harkins twice went close as the hosts looked to extend their advantage and ‘Well looked clearly rocked after falling behind.
The task facing McCall’s men was increased when Hateley was adjudged to have to have handled Garry Hay’s shot and Crawford Allen quickly pointed to the spot.
Heffernan coolly converted the resulting spot-kick low beyond Randolph, leaving the Steelmen with a mountain to climb.
Ojamaa finally registered Motherwell’s first shot on target after 63 minutes, but it Killie who continued to control proceedings.
Harkins went close again before McCall made a triple switch.
Nicky Law, Ojamaa and Higdon all were withdrawn with Robert McHugh, Omar Daley and Jamie Murphy introduced to the action.
Hateley flashed an effort well over the bar as Motherwell as the visitors tried to find a way back into the match.
Substitute Chris Johnston saw his effort comfortably gathered by Randolph as the hosts looked to build on their lead and Harkins failed to hit the target with his powerful free-kick.
The closing stages of the game saw little in the way of goal-mouth action and the hosts held out for a comfortable three points.
It was a disappointing setback in what has been a fantastic season for the Fir Parkers, however the players have the perfect opportunity to recover from their disappointment when they meet Rangers at Fir Park next Saturday.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at East End Park
Full Time – Kilmarnock 2-0 Motherwell
90mins – Almost time up here. Focus must move on to Rangers next week. Poor day at the office I am afraid.
86mins – Looks like it’s going to be Killie’s day. Hutchy is the latest Motherwell player to go into the book!
83mins – Motherwell’s best chance. Omar D and Humphrey combine. Ball across the face is missed by everyone! Humph has been ‘Well’s standout.
75mins – Results elsewhere make it a terrible day all round really. Killie almost score again but ‘Well defend it somehow…
74mins – Not long left on the clock. Motherwell have been poor. Nothing has really worked at all for McCall’s men.
70mins – Fowler and Jennings both booked. That’ll be the midfielder suspended now I think – 6th card of the campaign.
67mins – Three subs for the Steelmen. Off goes Nicky Law, Henrik Ojamaa and Michael Higdon. Daley, Murphy and McHugh all on!
66mins – Another penalty shout for Killie. That one looked clearer cut than the one that was given. That’s football I suppose?
63mins – Ojamaa shot from the edge of the box is Motherwell’s first on target I think? It’s been poor from the Fir Parkers…
61mins – Coolly slotted into the bottom corner by Heffernan. Is that game over now? It’s as poor as ‘Well have been for a while!
Penalty Killie. Handball in the box by Hateley I think. Looked a wee bit harsh I think!
58mins – Motherwell haven’t really started this half truth be told. Nothing is sticking up top…
58mins – Motherwell give away a foul on the edge – Killie to have a strike at goal but it falls just wide.
55mins – Play is swinging from end to end. Harkins (I think) finds space on the left. His low shot is well saved by Randolph.
54mins – Humphrey shows great pace on the right flank but it breaks down at the final minute for the Jamaican.
50mins – Attendance here at Rugby Park is 6878
50mins – Motherwell apply a bit of pressure but Killie gets it clear.
49mins – Striker goes through. His first shot was blocked, his second deflected over the covering Hutchinson and in. Disaster….
GOAL Kilmarnock! Heffernan!
47mins – Just clocked a half-time change – Cammy Bell is off, Kyle Letheren replaces him. He was at FP on trial for ages!
46mins – Killie have an early chance but a free-kick from the edge is deflected wide for a corner. CK is headed over for another corner!
45mins – Motherwell will get us started again here at Rugby Park.
HT: Grub at Killie is decent I have to say. All set for the second half here at Rugby Park….
Half-Time: Kilmarnock 0 – 0 Motherwell. Not much between the sides at all. Killie had the better chance (singular)
45mins – Just before the break, Killie have a great chance. Heffernan drags the ball inches wide of the post. Let off their for ‘Well!
45mins – Killie burst clear – it looks dangerous but Tim Clancy gets back to mop up the dangerous. Top defending from the Irishman…
41mins – Hammell is booked for dissent after another call didn’t go Motherwell’s way. Steelmen feeling hard-done to at the minute…
39mins – Another hotly contested corner kick (it’s becoming a recent theme). Motherwell get it clear though but players upset at that call.
37mins – A slip on the edge of the ‘Well area allows Van Tornhout a dig at goal. Fairly decent effort, comfortable for Randolph.
32mins – Van Tornhout is almost through on goal but Randolph is off his line quick to smother the danger. Well done the big GK!
30mins – A turn and shot from Dieter van Tornhout is deflected wide for a corner. ‘Well players not happy with that call (de-ja-vu?)
30mins – ‘Well half a wee half-chance – Ojamaa fires a low shot that deflected wide of the post. Still 0-0 at Rugby Park.
27mins – Killie burst down the field and win a free-kick in a good area. Ball in is decent but Nelson fouls and it’s a FK for ‘Well!
26mins – Good ball from a corner presents Hutchy with a half chance but his header is cleared on route to goal.
13mins – Game has cooled as a contest. Lots of possession for both sides but nothing much in the way of guilt-edged chances…
8mins – Another brilliant Humphrey ball across the six-yard box but no takers again for Motherwell. Excellent wing play there from CH.
4mins – Good ball into the area from Humphrey – no takers for the Steelmen though and the home side belt it clear.
2mins – Free-kick from Killie forces Hutchy to knock it behind for the early corner. Motherwell force it clear though…
1min – Killie get us underway here at Rugby Park!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“They far and away deserved it. We started okay but without a doubt we were really poor throughout the team.
“Apologies to the big support we had down, we just didn’t turn up today. “It was a really disappointing performance, we didn’t even have a shot in anger.”
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels:
“I just asked them to show their respect for Motherwell and their respect for Liam because we have lost one of our family.
“It is a family club which bonds so closely with the community and that’s what we use as much as we can.
“Liam is very high in our thoughts today. You could say we did it for Liam.”