Previous matches against Dundee United haven’t yielded a lot of success for Kilmarnock. Conceding a penalty after three minutes didn’t make this affair look as if it would be any different.
To come from behind once is hard enough, to come from behind twice and win showed real courage and determination from the Kilmarnock players. Sammy Clingan’s stoppage time winner could prove vital in the battle for a top six spot.
Kilmarnock seemed to have lost their way after an incredible start to the season under Allan Johnston. Since his departure, Kilmarnock have remained unbeaten. Okay, it’s only two games but it’s two games that would probably have ended in defeat had nothing changed.
Gary Locke’s first home match in charge started in the worst possible way when talisman Alexei Eremenko made the most ridiculous of challenges on John Rankin in the box. The Finnish midfielder has shown glimpses of the quality he had in his first spell at Rugby Park, this certainly wasn’t one of them.
Seven minutes later though, the match was back level when Josh Magennis took advantage of poor United defending to knock the ball past Radoslaw Cierzniak. It wasn’t to be the last long hard stare Jackie McNamara would make towards the Polish keeper.
An electric start to the match ended when the Arabs went back in front after only 13 minutes. This time it was Kilmarnock that were culpable at the back. Henri Anier proved too strong for Manuel Pascali before playing a 1-2 with Chris Erskine and slotting the ball past the on-rushing Craig Samson.
The away side dominated the rest of the half but were unable to take advantage of the few chances they created. The second half was a completely different story.
Whatever Locke said in the dressing room at half time almost had an instant impact when Cierzniak saved a Magennis header. Moments later Kilmarnock were level.
Tope Obadeyi, with excellent work on left-wing, was able to find Chris Johnston in the box. The Dundee United defence was all at sea as Johnston somehow managed to beat Rankin to the ball before trickling it past a sprawling Cierzniak.
On 73 minutes, former Kilmarnock player Robbie Muirhead came on for Anier. Muirhead’s departure was the final straw for Allan Johnston who announced his end-of-season resignation before he was sacked.
Rankin and Sean Dillon combined for a clumsy stoppage-time foul on Paul Cairney on the edge of the box. With regular freekick taker Eremenko subbed off minutes earlier, Clingan stepped up to score a goal worthy of winning any match.
An excellent second half performance ended in a crucial win for Kilmarnock with eight matches until the split. Next up is a trip to Inverness before a run of five key fixtures that will determine if it’s a top or bottom half finish for Kilmarnock.
St.Johnstone away, Motherwell away, St Mirren at home, Ross County away and Motherwell at home. Anything less than a double-figure points haul would almost certainly see Kilmarnock with another bottom six finale to suffer.
Kilmarnock can take great confidence going into the St.Johnstone match after beating Dundee United, which was United’s first defeat in 2015. St Johnstone have only won once this year. A victory in Perth would see Kilmarnock leap frog their opponents and with Hamilton also on a bad run, it could be the first step to the top six.