Burke dazzles as Killie dominate derby
A mouthwatering clash to round off the return of SPFL saw Kilmarnock run out 2-0 winners in the Ayrshire Derby. Seán McGill reports.
Kilmarnock’s Championship campaign got off to a dream start, as a Liam Polworth opener and a late Innes Cameron penalty sealed a Chris Burke-inspired Ayrshire Derby victory.
An already raucous Rugby Park on the opening day became even louder in the fifth minute as Killie fans demanded a penalty after a Chris Burke strike was blocked by Ayr captain Sean McGinty, but referee Don Robertson rightly decided there was no handball in the box.
A great tackle from Jack Baird denied a follow up opportunity, with Euan Murray’s header from the resulting corner dropping wide of the post when the defender found himself free at the front post.
The right-hand side was certainly being favoured by the hosts, as two players with plenty experience in the division above – Burke and Jason Naismith – looked to cause problems. It was the former handling the vast majority of the deliveries, frustrated by his teammates’ inability to meet his crosses from open play.
It was a corner that brought the first real save of the game, again from the boot of Burke. His looped delivery was met impressively by a leaping Innes Cameron, forcing a brilliant reaction save from Ayr ‘keeper Charlie Albinson.
The evergreen winger was undeniably up for the derby, acting as the only true source of unpredictability in an otherwise tense affair. After seeing one of many cross attempts blocked, Burke picked the ball back up on the byline and this time chose to cut inside, curling his attempt past the far post.
Killie kept trying to probe, but a slack pass from Brandon Haunstrup was almost the opportunity Ayr had been waiting for. Intercepted by Andy Murdoch, the ball was quickly played into the feet of Adeloye. The striker then drove at the defence, skipping past Euan Murray, but a fantastically timed sliding challenge from Jason Naismith denied the visitors the chance to get their first strike at goal in the last significant action of the half.
Comfortably the biggest chance of the game came just five minutes into the second period. Another pinpoint delivery from Burke fell squarely on the head of Cameron at the back-post, with the striker inexplicably failing to direct the ball on target from a gilt-edged opportunity.
Eventually though, Burke’s brilliance would pay off. Tired of his crosses being wasted, the winger elected to take the Ayr defence on, drifting inside along the edge of the box. He then knocked the ball in the direction of Blair Alston, with a ricochet in the box seeing the ball fall to the feet of Liam Polworth in space. The former Motherwell man took a moment to compose himself, before slotting the ball into the back of the net to send the the 3,692 Killie fans wild inside Rugby Park.
The Honest Men saw more of the ball in the minutes that followed, but it was still Killie who looked most like scoring. Two decent chances came the way of former Ayr loanee Cameron, the first from a first-time Fraser Murray cross, but the angle was too tight for his header to trouble Albinson too much.
Minutes later, he found himself in behind a resolute Ayr defence for the first time. Choosing to take his shot early, the ball looked like it might just zip into the far bottom corner, with Cameron letting out a frustrated cry as he watched it bend the wrong side of the post.
Another handball claim had the Killie faithful shouting again, this time Robertson obliged despite the ball seemingly striking the chest of Baird. Cameron had missed his fair share of chances throughout the game, but made no mistake from the spot as he slammed the ball beyond Alinson, and put the game beyond Ayr United.
The derby day victory puts Tommy Wright’s side top of the Championship, while David Hopkin’s side find themselves at the foot of the table. Ayr welcome Arbroath to Somerset Park on Saturday, while Killie head to Palmerston to meet former manager Allan Johnston’s Queen of the South.