THEY gave the Man of the Match award to Craig Slater, but Kilmarnock had the diligence of their groundstaff to thank, too, as they won their first home game since mid-October.
At various points during a wintry afternoon, it looked inevitable that the match with Inverness Caledonian Thistle would eventually be abandoned, with the snow falling steadily and showing no sign of letting up.
On at regular intervals, however, came the Killie tractor and a legion of men and women with giant orange shovels to clear the lines and allow the game to continue.
Their reward was a victory for their team that carries them 14 points clear of automatic relegation, and to within touching distance of the teams immediately above them. Their previous home win, almost three months ago to the day, had also come against Inverness.
“I thought it would have summed up our luck if the referee had called it off!” said Gary Locke, the Kilmarnock manager. “To be fair, the officials and the groundstaff have to take the credit because they were very efficient with everything they did. It was tough conditions for both teams, but they both tried to play. The pleasing thing was also to get the three points.”
It was not an afternoon for pretty football, which made the goal that won it six minutes into the second half look even more spectacular. John Hughes lamented the defending from his team as they passed up two opportunities to clear Jamie Hamill’s cross, but that should not detract from the quality of Slater’s finish as he waited for the ball to drop out of the snowy sky before volleying it past Owain Fon Williams and in via the crossbar.
“I scored last week and the target is to challenge myself to score more goals,” said the midfielder. “The more people who can score from different positions, the better for the team. Thankfully today I managed to get on the scoresheet. I don’t think I’ll score many better than that, so I’ll take it. I’m glad the game didn’t go off and it was made void.”
Kilmarnock were just about worth their win, despite having to survive a late glut of Inverness pressure during the seven minutes of added injury time. Hamill, an encouraging, cajoling figure throughout, had also been involved in their opening goal after just nine minutes. His cutback presented a chance to Adam Frizzell and when his shot was blocked, it fell kindly for Greg Kiltie to lash beyond the keeper.
This was Inverness’ first loss since the end of November and they will argue they created enough chances to take at least a point. The one they did score arrived late in the first half, Ross Draper turning in Greg Tansey’s delivery for his first goal since March 2014.
They had several other near things; a Tansey free kick that bounced all the way through for Jamie MacDonald to claw away, another that swished into the side netting, two driven efforts from Liam Polworth that were repelled, and a Gary Warren header that was tipped over, but couldn’t add to Draper’s strike.
“Did we deserve anything? No, not with the goals we conceded,” admitted Hughes. “The second goal was a wonderful strike, but we’ve got two chances to clear the ball.
“I’m the kind of guy that likes to see good football and if a good football goal is scored against my side, I’ll stand up and applaud it. But we can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.
“!It wasn’t a great football match, but we got through it.