Kris Jack at Rugby Park
A Jamie Murphy double gave Motherwell their first win of the season, in an excellent game at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park.
Murphy struck either side of a fine Gary Harkins solo effort to take the three points back to Lanarkshire.
Indeed, the scoreline could have been more emphatic in Motherwell’s favour as they warmed up for the visit of Levante in the best way possible.
It was two in and two out for Stuart McCall’s side in the Ayrshire sunshine, as Zaine Francis-Angol made his first SPL start, filling in for the suspended Steven Hammell and Chris Humphrey returning from injury to replace Omar Daley in attack.
Last week’s goalscorer Bob McHugh would start from the bench yet again, hopeful of making a similar impact this week.
Kenny Shiels opted to use the same starting eleven which had drawn up at Inverness the week before. Former Real Madrid youth player Borja Perez, signed only this week, was named as a sub as both sides looked to earn their first wins of the season.
The game was wide open right from the start, and only a last ditch challenge from Francis-Angol stopped Liam Kelly from giving the hosts the lead from six yards. Up the other end Michael Higdon hit a sweet volley form 25-yards which only just cleared Cammy Bell’s upright. However, Murphy made no mistake in Well’s next attack.
Michael Nelson was careless in possession 30 yards from goal, as Murphy dispossessed him, before jinking past Pascali and Fowler to slide the ball under Bell. It was a fine first of the season for Murphy, who looked to have the beating of Nelson all game.
Higdon should have doubled the lead when Randolph’s long kick bounced over Ojamaa, but his left footed effort drifted wide of the far post. Humphrey was then just too short in stretching to divert Higdon’s flick on past Bell, from a deft Francis-Angol cross.
It was all Motherwell at this stage and Humphrey had a rare effort from distance after being played in by Nicky Law which spun away from the top right corner.
Killie tried to get back in to the game through Liam Kelly, but his effort after being played in by Matt Kennedy went just the wrong side of Randolph’s post.
Former Partick Thistle and Dundee man Gary Harkins looked to be the one most likely to make the home side tick, and a fine piece of individual play brought his side level on the half hour.
Winning the ball in midfield, he strode forward unchallenged, all the way in to the box before unleashing a left foot effort low across Randolph and in to the bottom corner.
The home fans had barely stopped celebrating the leveller when ‘Well took the lead for the second time again through Murphy.
Pascali and Fowler got their angles wrong trying to catch Ojamaa offside and failed to notice Murphy bursting through to pick up Higdon’s threaded ball. With the whole Killie half at his mercy, he sprinted in on Bell, rounded him and coolly slotted in to the empty net.
As the half ended, Simon Ramsden was replaced by Adam Cummins, after the defender picked up a hamstring injury making him a doubt for the Europa Leae tie on Thursday.
The second-half started as frenetic as the first, with Murphy unlucky not to secure his hat trick after Ojamaa capitalised on a poor pass out of defence from Pascali to play him in however, the former Scotland U21 forward blazed over.
Killie settled and came back into things and Darren Randolph, fresh from being part of the Republic of Ireland squad in midweek, made a great save from sub Danny Raachi, when the midfielder pulled the trigger from 25 yards.
The big keeper got down low to his right to keep it out, before grasping the ball as it bounced back up.
Stuart McCall wrung the changes bringing on Stevie Hetherington and Fraser Kerr for Chris Humphrey and Nicky Law, preserving them for Thursday.
The former’s first contribution was to almost set up Ojamaa for a goal with his first touch but the Estonian fired over after working space in the box. He then barged through the Killie defence, only to have his low shot deflected wide.
Kenny Shiels’ side were bereft of a decent final ball, as their possession couldn’t be turned in to decent opportunities. Instead, Motherwell looked like they would extend their lea, and they thought they had when Ojamaa played Murphy in on the left. His cross was stood up to the back post where Higdon volleyed over when a burst net was expected.
The best chance for a third goal for Motherwell fell to sub Fraser Kerr. A centre-back to trade, the on-loan Birmingham youngster was deployed on the right. Picking up twenty-five yards from goal, he shimmied past two men in the box before forcing Cammy Bell to palm a blasted effort over the bar from 12 yards.
It would have been a fine goal to cap a great performance and win for Motherwell, but 2-1 was enough to seal the win and put the Steelmen second in the SPL on goal difference after three games.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Rugby Park
FULL TIME: Kilmarnock 1 – 2 Motherwell. Fantastic 3 points for the Steelmen.
91mins: Can’t blame Murphy for that. He has options in the middle but 30 yards out opts to go for goal. Well wide.
90mins: Into the final minute. Edgy finish.
88mins: Oh what a save from Bell! Mazy run from Kerr and as he’s about to burst the nets, Bell somehow turns it over.
85mins: Hutchinson booked for a tactical foul just inside our half to stop a counter attack.
83mins: And straight after, Murphy whips in a cross which evades the Killie defender at the back post. Higdon caught it on the volley but fires wide
82mins: Ojamaa finds himself with one defender to beat and Higdon to his right. He went himself and his shot was blocked.
77mins: Rory Boulding looked to be in behind the defense as he latched onto Fowlers pass. Linesman’s flag goes up though.
74mins: Half chance for Motherwell. A great ball in from Kerr fizzes across the box with no takers.
69mins: Looks like Kerr has slotted straight into Humphrey’s position at right midfield.
69mins: Motherwell sub: Humphrey makes way for Kerr.
67mins: Motherwell Sub: Law off for Hetherington.
64mins: Backs to the wall defending from ‘Well now! Bodies flying in everywhere to keep Killie out. Home side getting a lift…
60mins: …corner. Just wide. Up the other end, Randolph gets a strong hand onto a long range drive and collects. Danger averted.
60mins: So very nearly 3! Ojamaa finds himself just outside the box. As he creeps in, he opens his body up and curls one towards the top…
54mins: Unlucky Murphy! He overlaps Ojamaa on the counter-attack and the Estonian slides him in. Blazes just over from the just inside box.
52mins: ‘Well looking confident on the ball. We’re keeping possession well without creating any real chances.
46mins: Ojamaa and Lasley kick off the second half. Will Murphy get his hat-trick?
45mins: Late first half chance for Law there! He ghosted into the box and nodded Humphrey’s cross goalwards. ‘Well over the bar though.
43mins: Motherwell sub: Cummins on for Ramsden.
41mins: Ramsden receiving treatment for what looked like a muscle strain. Looks to be getting subbed off.
36mins: Murphy springs the offside trap wonderfully on the half-way line and after sprinting the entire half, rounds Bell and cooly slots home.
36mins: GOALLLLLLLL MOTHERWELL!
30mins: GOAL KILLIE. It’s 1-1 after Harkins mazes past the defense and finishes well.
23mins: Higdon booked for an ill-timed challenge
19mins: ‘Well really starting to turn the screw. Chris Humphrey this time trying his luck on his weak foot from 25 yards. Well over the bar.
15mins: It’s almost 2 for the Steelmen! Higdon with a left footed effort after a defensive mistake. Dragged it just past.
12mins: We’re a goal up but in the early stages so far, Killie have looked dangerous going forward.
11mins: Murphy skips past his man just outside the box and shows enough composure to slot past Bell into the bottom right corner.
11mins: GOAL MOTHERWELL!
9mins: Almost a world class goal from Higdon there! Caught a volley sweetly from the edge of the box and had Bell beaten. Just past.
5mins: It’s that man Francis-Angol’s again. This time in his own box he slides in to make a vital challenge as a goal looked inevitable.
4mins: Hateley’s delivery looked goal bound until the Killie defender dived in to clear with his head,
4mins: The busy Francis-Angol has now won us a free-kick in a dangerous position out wide…
1min: ….Hutchinson heads Hateley’s delivery well over.
1min: Good work from Francis-Angol wins us an early corner….
KICK-OFF: It’s game on! C’mon yea ‘Well!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I’m really pleased for that kid, he’s a cracking lad and is totally committed to do his best for Motherwell.”
“I was hoping Jamie would come back from his summer break fresh and energised and that has been exactly the case.
“We tried him out in a different position today behind Henrik (Ojamaa) and Higgy (Higdon), it worked well and he got two terrific goals.
“He’s had a lot of pressure over the last two seasons in regards to will he move? Will he be picked for Scotland? And for a young guy that can be a lot of pressure, so he has just got to focus on his football.”
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels:
“I think it could have went either way, we were playing against a counter-attack team and we knew going into the game that Motherwell are a dangerous team away from home.
“It was poor play for the first goal and the second the player wasn’t tracked, we have to look at the imagination side and work on that in the next week.
“We need someone to hold up the ball a bit better and link it up, we are missing Heffernan and you can see how it has an impact on our performance.
“It’s early yet and too early to make assessments, it could have so easily been a draw today but I still feel if you take Harkins out then we lack creativity.”