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Locke’s stock grows as Kilmarnock’s unbeaten run continues

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Gary Locke’s unbeaten start as Kilmarnock manager continued with a hard-earned point away to Inverness. It could be an important point in the race for a top six spot, especially with St Johnstone and Dundee winning.

For the second match in-a-row, Locke’s determined troops had to come from behind. Inverness took the lead three times in what was a crazy match at the Caledonian Stadium.

Poor Kilmarnock defending allowed Inverness to take the lead on 18 minutes. Marley Watkins was able to hold off the Kilmarnock defender in the box to knock the long ball into to the path of Graeme Shinnie. The Aberdeen-bound player was hungrier than the entire Kilmarnock team to get to the ball and smashed it beyond Craig Samson.

A bit of good fortune saw Kilmarnock equalise just two minutes later. Former Partick Thistle striker, Nathan Eccleston passed to Chris Johnston who let fly from 25 yards. Johnston’s shot was deflected by Eccleston who continued his run into the box to slot the ball past Ryan Esson.

If Kilmarnock’s luck was in going forward, it was out at the back. Watkins made a driving run down the left before crossing low to the front post. The ball narrowly avoided Nick Ross but, in a cruel twist of fate, Darryl Westlake’s clearance deflected off Ross and into the back of the net.

Kilmarnock’s second equaliser came four minutes into first half stoppage time. The Ayrshire men were awarded a freekick 25 yards out. With regular set piece taker Alexei Eremenko suspended and last week’s match winner Sammy Clingan out injured, one thing the Inverness players didn’t expect was the ball to sail into the back of the net.
It nearly did. Craig Slater stepped up and hit the ball almost inch perfect as it struck the bottom of the post before hitting Esson’s ankle and ending up in the back of the net. If there’s one thing Kilmarnock aren’t short of, it’s freekick takers.

The Kilmarnock defence were again culpable as Inverness took the lead for the third time. Ross passed the ball to Danny Williams who was given the freedom of Inverness to hit a shot from 25 yards out. Not a single defender closed him down as the ball whistled past Samson for 3-2.

For the fifth time in two matches, Kilmarnock hit another equaliser. Tope Obadeyi won a corner after running the length of the pitch. Slater’s delivery was knocked down by Kilmarnock captain Manuel Pascali into the path of Obadeyi who wasn’t going to miss from six yards.

It may only be three matches into Locke’s reign but he has already installed a never say die attitude in his players. Five equaliser’s against Europe-chasing Dundee United and Inverness have shown the players are now more than up to the fight for a top six place.

Next up for Locke’s troops is a trip to Perth against fellow top six chasers St Johnstone. Recent meetings between the sides haven’t been great for Kilmarnock, with only one win in the last few years.

That win came earlier this season thanks to a Josh Magennis double. Magennis was constantly at the throat of the Inverness defenders and made a nuisance of himself at set plays. Eccleston impressed on his first start and showed signs that there could be a decent partnership forged with Magennis.

With Kilmarnock’s attack firing on all cylinders, if Locke can sort out the defence going into this run of five crucial matches, a top six place is a distinct possibility.

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