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Kilmarnock keep European bid on track with victory at St Johnstone
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PA Sport staff
Press Association
Marley Watkins was on target for Kilmarnock (Steve Welsh/PA)
Marley Watkins was on target for Kilmarnock (Steve Welsh/PA)

Kilmarnock continued their European surge after a comfortable 2-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Joe Wright opened the scoring midway through the first half, and Derek McInnes’ side could have been out of sight had it not been for the heroics of Dimitar Mitov.

The game would be put out of reach with nine minutes remaining when Marley Watkins tapped home his 13th goal of the season.

Killie have moved eight points ahead in fourth spot in the cinch Premiership, while their hosts remain in a battle to avoid the relegation play-off after another poor home showing.

Kyle Vassell took his goal tally for the season to 10 last weekend and he really should have opened the scoring after getting on the end of Danny Armstrong’s cross in the second minute.

The ball dropped nicely at the feet of the striker, but he failed to make a proper connection, resulting in an important block by Dan Phillips.

It took a brilliant challenge by Andy Considine to prevent a potential breakaway after Luke Robinson carelessly surrendered possession to Vassell.

St Johnstone had failed to create anything of note going forward. However, Matt Smith’s wind-assisted cross almost caught out Will Dennis.

Kilmarnock made the breakthrough on 23 minutes, Liam Polworth sent over a tantalising delivery, which Wright stretched to turn beyond Mitov from six yards.

Armstrong went close to doubling the visitors’ lead with a free-kick that narrowly missed its mark, while at the other end, Robinson worked Dennis after a positive forward run.

The chances kept coming for Killie. Watkins was denied by a smart stop from Mitov, before Matty Kennedy’s quickly taken corner struck the face of the crossbar with the Saints keeper still organising his defence.

Mitov was having a busy afternoon and was called into action again when Watkins latched on to Armstrong’s clever through ball.

Craig Levein’s side looked brighter after the restart. David Keltjens sliced over, then Max Kucheriavyi stung the palms of the keeper with a curling strike from the edge of the box.

They were almost punished for their lack of cutting-edge however, as Stuart Findlay struck the side-netting after a rare lapse of concentration by Mitov.

It required a tremendous goal-line clearance to prevent Watkins doubling Killie’s lead with 23 minutes left on the clock.

The loose ball then broke the way of Polworth who fired a goal-bound effort that Mitov brilliantly parried around the post.

There was another scare from the resulting corner for the home side, Liam Donnelly rose highest to connect, but the home keeper produced more heroics to keep the deficit at one.

After surviving an onslaught, Saints almost got back on terms when Dennis somehow pushed Ryan McGowan’s close-range shot on to the post.

With nine minutes remaining, Killie finally got the goal their pressure merited.

A well-worked set-piece routine saw Findlay nod Armstrong’s delivery back across goal – and Watkins was left with the simple task of knocking home from a yard out.

Benjamin Kimpioka tried his luck with an acrobatic attempt that crept over the crossbar, rounding off a disappointing afternoon for the home side.


Scottish PremiershipKilmarnockSt. Johnstone
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