Kilmarnock 1 – 1 Dundee United 22/01/11

Paul Barnes at Rugby Park…

A last minute wonder goal from substitute Garry Kenneth cancelled out Conor Sammon’s first half strike to rescue a point for Dundee United in an entertaining mid-table clash at Rugby Park.

The result sees Kilmarnock cement their place in fourth spot in the SPL while Dundee United continue their unbeaten run, stretching back to early November.

At times one wondered if both sides were attempting to re-write the object of the game, with a flurry of red cards in a ten minute second half spell hinting at an emphasis on ending the match with as few players as possible.

Captain Jon Daly and midfielder Scott Robertson were sent off for the visitors following the dismissal of Killie’s playmaker Alexei Eremenko, but the card count didn’t reflect the manner in which the game was played. In fact aside from the three challenges which drew a magnetic response from the laminated cardboard in referee George Salmond’s pocket, the game was bereft of a dirty sub-plot.

The early exchanges saw a series of neat passing exchanges and goal scoring opportunities, with Eremenko going close to opening the scoring after just three minutes. His unchallenged run through the midfield ended with a low drive that was deflected wide for a corner.

United replied after nineteen minutes, Prince Buaben drilling wide after a neat lay off from David Goodwillie at the edge of the box. Fifteen minutes later and it was Goodwillie himself who almost opened the scoring. Up to his usual mischief, he pressured Killie defender Frazer Wright into a weak back pass. Sniffing an opportunity, theUnited striker poked a shot under the body of the outrushing Cammy Bell, only to see his attempt ping off the upright.

At the other end Eremenko was the architect of United’s troubles, picking up the ball from deep, peppering passes to within an inch of their blue and white striped targets, surging forward from midfield and generally knitting Killie together from back to front.

The home side grew in confidence as half time approached with Liam Kelly blazing over from twenty yards after being teed up by Garry Hay.

But it was left to in-form striker Conor Sammon to break the deadlock on forty one minutes. With the interval looming, Sammon surged into United’s box and opted to spray wide when a shot at goal appeared more likely. His pass had barely arrived at Eremenko’s feet when the Finn fizzed the ball back across goal. The onrushing Sammon found himself alone at the bag post and duly obliged by tapping in his 17th goal of the season.

Conor Sammon grabbed his 17th goal of the season in yesterday's 1-1 draw

As the 5,120 supporters munched on their pies at half-time, little would they know what would greet them at the start of the second half. With Kilmarnock settling back in nicely following interval refreshments they found themselves – from nowhere – a man down after 54 minutes. United’s Scott Robertson nipped carelessly at Eremenko’s ankles, felling both players in the process. As they taunted each other and rose to their feet, Eremenko kicked out at Robertson right under the nose of refereeSalmond. The whistler had no choice but to brandish red to the Scandinavian, with Robertson receiving a caution for his late tackle.

The home fans, still venting furiously about the dismissal, felt vindicated just four minutes later, when Robertson picked up his second caution and walked up the tunnel for a poorly timed tackle on Rui Miguel.

All of a sudden the game sparked into life, and to compound matters further for the Tangerines they soon found themselves reduced to nine. Jon Daly, booked previously for dissenting against the first yellow card shown to Robertson, barged into the back of Sammon as both men rose to challenge for a header. Killie’s players surrounded the referee to cry foul and their wish was the official’s command as out came a second yellow, followed by a red, for Daly.

As a consequence the game opened right up, and sensing the threat posed by Killie’s one man advatnage, United manager Peter Houston threw on defender Garry Kenneth to ride out the anticipated storm for the closing 25 minutes. The pressure on United’s goal almost put the game out of sight with 15 minutes remaining, goalkeeper Dusan Pernis keeping his side alive with a fine double save from a Garry Hay shot and Manuel Pascali follow-up.

By now United’s chances of travelling back to Tayside with a point looked remote as they set up camp at the edge of their box, offering little threat in Kilmarnock’s third.

Deciding to take the matter into his own hands, substitute Garry Kenneth ploughed forward as the ninety minutes approached. Finding himself in possession 40 yards from the Killie goal, the towering lanky defender adjusted his feet before unleashing a ferocious drive which skidded off the turf before flying past Bell’s outstretched arms. The United fans behind the goal couldn’t contain their euphoria as Kenneth marshalled his team mates back to the halfway line to try and press for a winner. It wasn’t to be though, the final whistle sounding just a minute later to ensure the spoils were shared.

Killie boss Mixu Paatelainen struggled to hide his frustrations as another three points were snatched away right at the death: “It’s so disappointing to lose a goal in the last minute. It’s a shame really because I’m so proud of the players. They gave me everything again today and Dundee United are a fine side, so a point isn’t a bad result for us. But when you lose a goal like that right at the end of the game it hurts. Our goalkeeper could have got down quicker, he shouldn’t really get beaten from 40 yards, but that’s the way it goes.”

And Paatelainen had little sympathy for his red carded midfielder Eremenko: “I can’t accept the way that he’s retaliated. Yes, he took a few knocks during the game but that’s no excuse to kick out like that.”

Dundee United manager Peter Houston, paid tribute to goal scoring hero Kenneth: “He failed a fitness test at Tannadice this morning. He wasn’t meant to be playing but I told the physio to send him through on the bus. I didn’t plan on using him but when Jon Daly was sent off I had no centre defenders on the field so I threw Garry on to tighten things up. I was screaming at him to pass it out wide, but it shows you what I know as he’s fired it straight into the net to give us a point.”

Houston, meanwhile, questioned the decision to send off Daly: “With the first yellow, he’s actually gone in to try and calm things down. That’s what I ask my captain to do. And the ref ends up booking him. The second one is soft. He’s missed the header and it’s probably a foul, but for me it was never a booking.”

A lively encounter at Rugby Park and probably a fair result over the piece.United travel to St Mirren on Wednesday minus Daly and Robertson who will both be suspended, as they seek to continue on their unbeaten run. Kilmarnock, meanwhile, visit a Hamilton side desperate to pick up any points they can from the foot of the table.

If both sides can repeat the commitment and effort that was on show today for the remainder of the season, it won’t be long before movement up the league table will provide tangible reward for their dedication and spirit.

One Response to Kilmarnock 1 – 1 Dundee United 22/01/11

  1. Pingback: Kilmarnock 1-1 Dundee United « The Commentary Box

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