Derek McInnes was thrilled after his Kilmarnock side edged closer to securing European football with a confident victory over St Johnstone.

Killie deservedly took the lead midway through the first half when Joe Wright turned home Liam Polworth’s pin-point delivery – and the visitors were denied on multiple occasions to extend their advantage by the heroics of Dimitar Mitov.

The game was settled with nine minutes remaining after Marley Watkins tapped home his 13th goal of the season.

Kilmarnock have extended their advantage in fourth place to eight points, with just five games remaining.

“I thought first half we were very good,” McInnes said.

“Coming away from home, we tried to impose ourselves. We spoke throughout the week about the importance of matching their motivation.

“We knew we were up against a team with so much riding on the game, we had to match that and a bit more.

“I was bemoaning the fact we didn’t get that second goal, which we maybe merited for our first half dominance as an away team – to have that control was really pleasing.

“We never got started in first 20 minutes of the second half but thankfully we got the second.

“It’s not easy winning games in this league, especially away from home – we did a lot right and credit to our players.”

Despite moving one step closer to returning to Europe for the first time since 2019, the Rugby Park boss insists there is still work to do.

Kilmarnock have lost just one of their 11 Premiership encounters since returning from the winter break in January.

He added: “There’s still work to be done and hopefully a few more special days to have.”

Craig Levein felt his team failed to hit the heights of recent performance during a lacklustre showing.

Saints were unable to build on their excellent victory against Hibernian at Easter Road as they slumped to defeat at McDiarmid Park.

St Johnstone remain 10th in the table and look set for a battle to avoid the play-off position in their post-split fixtures.

“The rollercoaster is back in operation. It was a hell of a frustrating afternoon,” Levein said.

“After the last two games I’ve been talking fairly confidently about continuing at that level.

“We didn’t play with the confidence I thought we should’ve done because of our previous performances.

“Individually we didn’t have that many players who played anywhere near their best.

“Kilmarnock didn’t batter us by any stretch of the imagination and we had some good chances.”

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.

Derek McInnes was delighted after his side overcame the elements to defeat Ross County and extend their advantage in fourth place.

Kyle Vassell blasted in his 10th goal of the season on 64 minutes to settle a game in which the wind played havoc.

The Rugby Park boss admits it’s an encounter that won’t live long in the memory but insisted his players should savour a crucial three points.

“We knew from the early part of the week that come three o’clock Saturday, we were going to get 60mph winds,” he said.

“It is far from ideal for players to go out and perform, I think it was tough for both sets of players.

“We spoke about the need for concentration, it’s the type of conditions that can make players look silly and you can make mistakes – to get a clean sheet really pleases us.

“I didn’t think there was a lot in the game, I thought we had better control.

“Sometimes these are the best ones, 1-0, getting the job done, playing with a bit of responsibility, real concentration – we weren’t brilliant but we didn’t have to be.

“You don’t really enjoy that type of game but you enjoy the aftermath of it and so we should”

Killie are now in the driving seat for a European place having stretched their lead over St Mirren in fifth to five points.

With defeats for all three teams directly below them in the table, it was a good day for McInnes and his team – something he hopes can become a familiar feeling.

“It has been a good weekend and we could do with a few more like this one to secure that European spot,” he added.

“With six games to go, I still think there’s improvements in us.

“For us to get those improvements, the motivation levels need to stay high and it was high again today.”

Ross County boss Don Cowie felt another lapse in concentration cost his side dearly at Rugby Park.

The Staggies were managing the game well before conceding shortly after the hour-mark.

Vassell’s shot appeared to creep under the grasp of George Wickens and into the net for what proved to be crucial winner.

County are now four points adrift in the relegation play-off position after St Johnstone defeated Hibernian at Easter Road.

“The most frustrating thing was not managing to get something from the game,” Cowie said.

“It was obviously difficult conditions, very testing. Just like the majority of the away games, we managed to stay in the game and be involved in it, then we somehow find a way of conceding a goal.

“That gives the opposition that big lift, we’ve spoken about it in the dressing room, it’s the concentration levels.

“Over the period since I’ve come into the role, I feel like we’ve defended really well in the majority of games, it’s just these wee moments we are switching off.”

Derek McInnes was proud of his Kilmarnock side for securing their place in the top six of the cinch Premiership with two games remaining before the split.

Killie finished 10th last year but are now guaranteed to be competing for a place in Europe in the closing weeks of the campaign after their 1-1 draw away to Hearts took them seven points clear of seventh-placed Hibernian.

The fourth-placed Ayrshire side claimed their point when Marley Watkins’ stunning second-half strike cancelled out Kenneth Vargas’ 10th-minute header for the Jambos.

“I’m very much a happy man, to do it with two games to spare is testament to so much good work within the club, particularly from the players, the staff, the board,” said manager McInnes.

“The club was in a poor place three years ago, we came in just over two years ago as a Championship team and managed to get out at the first attempt.

“This time last year we were still punching, fighting and scrapping to try and make sure we stayed in the league. A lot of changes in the summer and we’ve managed to deliver a top-six finish, which is terrific.”

McInnes was encouraged by the way his side came back strongly after the break at Tynecastle.

“A response was needed at half-time, we passed up a couple of really good chances in the first half,” said McInnes. “But I thought we were terrific in the second half.”

Hearts boss Steven Naismith felt his side lacked sharpness, with several players having been on international duty, but he was pleased that neither Killie nor St Mirren were able to eat into their 11-point advantage in third place.

“After the international break, another game has gone by and the teams below us haven’t gained any ground on us,” he said. “That’s a positive.

“On the back of a defeat (at Ross County last time out), the biggest thing is that you get some sort of points in the next game and we have done that.

“For me, the hardest games to deal with are the ones after the international breaks. It’s really difficult because four or five of our players didn’t get back into training until Friday.

“We started the game well, asked the question and got on the front foot, and then we get the goal at a good time. But then in those wee moments when we did break through, we just didn’t have that sharpness.

“We knew it was going to be a battle and a fight, Kilmarnock are really good at what they do. They are direct and the one time we don’t set up properly they get their goal. It’s a brilliant finish from Marley, who is having a really good season.”

Derek McInnes hailed the mentality of his Kilmarnock players after their stunning comeback win over St Mirren.

Killie trailed by two goals at the interval but they produced an incredible comeback as they scored five goals in 18 minutes to secure a 5-2 triumph to overtake St Mirren in fourth in the cinch Premiership table.

Captain Kyle Vassell scored twice with Marley Watkins, Danny Armstrong and David Watson all on the scoresheet to leave a visibly delighted McInnes praising the character of his squad.

He said: “When the questions were getting asked of my players today, they met that responsibility brilliantly.

“I’ve got proper men in that changing room and it was a proper grown-up performance.

“We were 2-0 down at home and the fans were getting a bit antsy. It’s easy for my staff and I to point out what’s going wrong but the players stood up.

“I wasn’t surprised that there was an element of a response there and once we got one goal, I felt the second one was coming.

“I was always confident that we had another goal in us but to get five was fantastic. I’m delighted for my front two getting the goals as they led the line well.

“It was such a big game and it felt like a proper game, which is recognition of the season that both clubs are having. We were second best for the first half hour and we never met the threat that they posed.

“We didn’t do stuff that we worked on through the week and there was loads of stuff wrong with us in that opening half hour. Sometimes you need half-time to reset and we scored five goals in 18 minutes – it could have been more.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Robinson believes his St Mirren players were unable to deal with the momentum shift in the second half.

He said: “It was three goals in about five minutes and the ball must’ve only been in play for 90 seconds. “As a group, we have to learn from that and can we slow the game down?

“We knew that we’d need to defend in the second half but we didn’t do that well enough and we had no ownership of the game.

“The momentum kept increasing and we were unable to deal with it. We looked naive today for that spell and that’s something that we need to learn from.

“There won’t be a hangover from that because it’s not something that happens every week.

“You’re not fifth in the table if that’s the norm but know that it’s not acceptable and it’s a wasted opportunity.”

Derek McInnes revealed that Kilmarnock will appeal against the red card shown to Lewis Mayo during their 2-2 draw at Dundee.

An early own goal by keeper Will Dennis was cancelled out by Killie’s Marley Watkins.

Luke McCowan then netted from the penalty spot for the home side after Mayo was sent off by referee Colin Steven for his challenge on Scott Tiffoney.

Robbie Deas secured a dramatic draw for Kilmarnock in stoppage time but McInnes was still raging over Mayo’s sending off.

The Rugby Park boss said: “I will appeal (against the decision). Mayo can play against Aberdeen in the cup because it is a different competition.

“He will be suspended for the St Mirren game so we will be appealing it.

“We had to dig ourselves out of a hole after a refereeing decision. I went in to see him. There is no infringement in the box, if there is a foul?

“It’s a bit untidy because Mayo has his eyes on the ball, it bounces and he gets himself in a bad position, but at no time does he pull Scott Tiffoney down.

“Tiffoney falls down and it doesn’t look great. I can’t understand why Greg Aitken and the VAR team haven’t asked the referee to look at it.

“I think if he does, he doesn’t give the penalty and I think it actually makes him think twice as to whether there is a foul there or not.

“If he does get called over and sticks by his decision then we can have a go at the referee. I don’t understand.

“They get involved when they shouldn’t and don’t get involved where they should. I am just scunnered with it.”

Dundee boss Tony Docherty was delighted with the response of his players after their hammering by Celtic last week but he insisted his team should have seen the Killie game out.

He said: “I think the overriding feeling is disappointment.

“We have just had a good discussion as a group. I think the thing I want to emphasise is that we had a difficult night on Wednesday.

“But we won’t be defined by a result like that but what we will be defined by is our reaction to it.

“I thought our reaction today was fantastic but we should have seen the game out.”

Rangers maintained their advantage over Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership but only after a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Killie wide-man Danny Armstrong scored from the spot in the 11th minute of an energetic first half and Derek McInnes’ side were worth their interval lead.

The Gers had to dig deep and captain James Tavernier levelled in the 55th minute with a trademark free-kick before midfielder Tom Lawrence netted with a fine finish just four minutes later as the visitors reasserted themselves.

With 10 league games remaining – five before the split – Philippe Clement’s side are two points ahead of Celtic, who demolished Dundee 7-1 at Parkhead to keep hot on the heels of the Govan men.

The visitors had racked up 10 wins in a row with a 5-0 win over Hearts at the weekend, including a 3-1 win over Killie on January 2, the only defeat for the Ayrshire outfit in their last 14 outings.

Clement had noted the vagaries of the artificial surface and again tinkered with his squad to suit, making three changes with Borna Barisic, Ross McCausland and Fabio Silva coming back in while the home side were unchanged.

Silva had the first effort on goal after five minutes, his close-range shot deflected for a corner from which Rangers defender Connor Goldson’s header was pushed behind by Killie keeper Will Dennis.

Liam Donnelly came close with a header at the other end as Killie responded but moments later John Lundstram blocked an Armstrong cross with his arm and referee David Dickinson pointed to the spot.

Armstrong confidently beat Jack Butland with his penalty and yet another upset was on the cards.

Clement’s men appeared ill at ease as the route-one first-half unfolded further and Kilmarnock continued chasing and harrying.

There was some controversy in the 40th minute when Mohamed Diomande appeared to prevent Liam Polworth from cleanly latching on to his short pass, but Dickinson played on and was not required by VAR to check his pitchside monitor, to the ire of the home players and supporters.

Cyriel Dessers and Ridvan Yilmaz replaced Silva and Barisic for the start of the second half – Dujon Sterling would replace McCausland – but Butland soon had to make a fine one-handed save to prevent Matty Kennedy stroking in a second from six yards out.

Kilmarnock paid for that miss after defender Lewis Mayo fouled Lawrence 25 yards from goal, with Tavernier stepping up to send his curling shot past the diving Dennis.

Rain continued to swirl around the ground as Rangers went for the second, which came when Lawrence pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box and guided his shot low past Dennis and into the far corner for his first goal of the season, sparking wild scenes of delight in the stand behind the goal which housed the visiting fans, some of whom spilled out.

The game had swung towards the rejuvenated Ibrox men and Dessers hit the bar from a Tavernier corner.

In the 70th minute, Oscar Cortes limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem to be replaced by Scott Wright and the game was still in the balance.

Diomande curled a shot past the far post from 16 yards as play sped from end to end and Dessers got tangled up as he tried to capitalise on a mistake by Killie centre-back Stuart Findlay.

Six minutes were added on but there were no more goals which meant a crucial three points for Rangers, but Celtic’s stunning win over Dundee confirmed there is still plenty left in the title race.

Derek McInnes urged his players to savour their late 1-0 victory over Livingston after suffering for the majority of a difficult encounter.

Marley Watkins struck a crucial winner with two minutes left after Premiership strugglers Livi had frustrated their hosts for much the evening.

A lack of composure in front of goal was to prove costly for David Martindale’s side as they were punished late on, allowing Kilmarnock to claim their first win of 2024 and strengthen their grip on fourth place in the table.

“We’re not going to be in a rush to watch the game back again, but a late winner is always so welcome – sometimes they are the best ones,” said McInnes.

“I told the players to enjoy it because it wasn’t enjoyable – but enjoy winning the game.

“We struggled for any fluency, we gave the ball away, chose the wrong option and lacked confidence – which was strange as we’d only lost one in 10.

“We’ll take that but we need to learn from it, as the season goes on there will be a little bit more pressure on each game.”

McInnes was especially pleased at the impact of his substitutes, who all played a vital role in turning the game in Killie’s favour.

The home side were much improved after half-time when the Rugby Park boss turned to his bench.

The changes paid dividends as Matty Kennedy picked out fellow sub Kevin van Veen to nod the ball into Watkins’ path for the winner.

“Half-time came at the right time and the subs that we made definitely helped us,” he added.

“We knew a point wasn’t really going to help us too much for what we’re trying to do. We tried to chase the game a bit.

“Van Veen’s quality showed, even just a few touches, none more so than the goal — it’s a brilliant win for us and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Livi boss Martindale was disappointed as his side were let down by a lack of composure in front of goal.

The Lions are now 17 Premiership games without a win and sit six points adrift at the foot of the table.

“I thought defensively we were very, very good in the shape – we defended very well,” he said.

“I felt we had the better chances in the game, I felt tonight was probably more on the offensive players at the club if I’m being brutally honest.

“I don’t believe performances alone are enough to make it turn but there are very few performances that I’ve came in worried.

“I’m frustrated for the players more so than me because I can feel the anxiety and frustration in the changing room.”

Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes was left “even more disappointed” when he questioned Scottish Football Association referee chief Crawford Allan about Corrie Ndaba’s red card.

With the home side leading 2-1 against Hibernian on Saturday, Ndaba was sent off for a challenge on Jair Tavares, with referee Grant Irvine upgrading his yellow to red after being advised by VAR Nick Walsh to consult the pitch side monitor.

McInnes’s frustration was compounded when Hibees substitute Myziane Maolida fired in a late equaliser to salvage a point for the visitors.

The Killie boss spoke to Allan, head of referee operations at the SFA, but was not satisfied with what he heard.

“I was disappointed at the time (of the sending off) and that is still the case,” said McInnes, who revealed Robbie Deas had an operation on a fractur to his cheekbone on Monday sustained against Dundee which keeps him out for “the next few weeks”.

“I had a conversation with the refereeing department on Monday and I was even more disappointed after that conversation because of the take on it. His explanation was, the justification for the red card.

“They felt the decision was right, rather than a mistake.

“We totally disagreed on the reasons. Without going into it too much, it was more the exiting of the tackle but at least we had the conversation.

“My feeling is that we have to remind ourselves and re-set what VAR was brought in for.

“It has affected what happened on Saturday because it potentially cost us two extra points because we could have won the game, no guarantees of course but  it affects us the next two games with Corrie being suspended.

“The referee is three yards away, he is in the heat of the battle and he’s seen it for what it was, a yellow card. I didn’t think it was a yellow card.

“I will say to you what I said to Crawford Allan and there is no one who will tell me any differently.

“If Corrie gets yellow carded and the game gets played out, there is no one from the Hibs end, or the media, commenting that it was a ridiculous decision, why didn’t VAR get involved, why wasn’t it a red card? I think they have made it a thing by getting involved.

“Let the referee referee the game. He’s seen it for what it was. Give the referees more autonomy and more responsibility.

“I think it was wrong for VAR to get involved. We haven’t appealed it. I didn’t think there was any real point.”

On potential signings before the transfer window closes on Thursday, McInnes said: “We may still look to add one if we can but certainly no one leaving.”

Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes expects Barry Robson to “bounce back” after being dismissed as Aberdeen boss.

The 45-year-old has departed the Granite City club along with his coaching staff following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Dundee at Pittodrie.

Robson, initially installed as caretaker boss last January, led the Dons to a third-placed finish last season and qualification for the Europa Conference League, and took them to the Viaplay Cup final this season only to lose to Rangers.

However, he managed only one win in his last five league games in charge which leaves the Dons eighth in the cinch Premiership table.

Former Aberdeen manager McInnes, who signed former midfielder Robson for Aberdeen and subsequently appointed him to his coaching staff, said: “Disappointed as always.

“I think Barry earned the right for the job, during his time as caretaker when Aberdeen were searching for a manager.

“With the more results Barry got, I don’t think anyone was too surprised he got the job.

“He did well last season, he has had to contend with a lot this season, none more so than when the heat comes on and the results aren’t what is expected.

“He had to deal with that so it is extremely disappointing for Barry, he’s a pal and I speak to him regularly. Just prior to this time last year he was an Under-18s manager.

“But he has managed to gain a lot of experience as a first-team manager, he has managed in a cup final, managed in Europe, so he has gained a lot from it.

“My initial thoughts are for Barry and hopefully he will take the good from the experience and move on to his next opportunity when it comes along.

“He has so many good qualities and he will bounce back.”

Derek McInnes urged Kilmarnock to fight to the final whistle in their Scottish Gas Scottish Cup tie against Dundee after suffering a double disappointment against the Dens Park side in the cinch Premiership this season.

The Dee grabbed a last-gasp equaliser through captain Joe Shaughnessy in the 2-2 draw in Ayrshire on December 30 after the home side had taken the lead with a Rory McKenzie goal in the third minute of added time.

Killie had also succumbed to Dundee late in the game in September when Zak Rudden’s added-time goal for the 10-man hosts gave Tony Docherty’s side a point in a 2-2 draw.

McInnes, happy to add striker Greg Stewart to his squad on Thursday after the 33-year-old arrived from Indian Super League side Mumbai City, reflected on the two late setbacks against his former assistant Docherty as he looked forward to the fourth-round tie on Saturday.

He said: “We score in the 93rd, 94th minute and you automatically feel that’s the game in the bag, but the people who can’t think that way are the players and you’ve still got to see the job through.

“Dundee have scored a lot of goals from set-plays so the one thing you can guarantee in any game is the ball is coming in your box so you’ve got to withstand that.

“I think in open play we’ve been pretty comfortable against them. They do carry a threat at set-plays with the size they’ve got and both equalising goals were from corner kicks in the dying embers of the game.

“That’s allowed us to drop four points in the league which always nags away at you. I think it’s important that we try and focus on the good when we’ve played Dundee and just remember that we’ve got a job to see it through if we’re in a similar position, but we’re going to have to work hard to get ourselves in front.

“I think it will be a tight match, a competitive match, a lot of good players in both teams. It’s a cup tie and we want to do well in the cup, we see the importance of the cup as well as having a strong league campaign.”

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes believes Greg Stewart’s eagerness to return to Rugby Park will ensure he can hit the ground running.

Killie won the race to sign the 33-year-old forward and he could feature against former club Dundee in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup fourth round in Ayrshire on Saturday if paperwork is completed in time.

Stewart scored eight goals in 16 appearances for Killie in the first half of the 2018-19 season before joining McInnes at Aberdeen in another loan move from Birmingham.

He is now back at Kilmarnock on a deal until the end of the season after spending two-and-a-half years in the Indian Super League, most recently with Mumbai City.

McInnes told his club’s website: “We are delighted to get Greg in, his eagerness to come and be a part of what we’re trying to do here is a big factor.

“He now joins the squad and will try and help us reach our objectives for the rest of the campaign.

“The fact he’s been at the club before means there’s a familiarity about it, he will fit right in.

“We are looking forward to try and get that impact we know he can bring for the rest of the season.”

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes praised his players’ battling qualities after a Marley Watkins goal sealed a 1-0 cinch Premiership win at St Mirren.

The Ayrshire side moved four points clear of their vanquished opponents after keeping a clean sheet for a fourth-successive away game.

And McInnes said: “We wanted ball carriers and thankfully we had a brilliant passage of play for the goal. We had a few boys on empty at the end with the heavy pitch. It probably took a lot out of us.

“We’ve got 30 points and four clean sheets in a row on the road when our away form was so bad last season. I think there’s a confidence and trust now to come to different places.

“The four clean sheets in a row is the first time we’ve done that in a long time. The fans helped us, it felt like a proper cup tie even though it was a league game.”

Killie’s large travelling support sang about their team qualifying for Europe next season but McInnes was setting his sights on making sure of a top-six place first.

He added: “I think it’s great for the fans to think about that but for us, we’ve got a target for ourselves at junctions which will hopefully let us fight for the top six.

“I want us to play like a top-six side, carry ourselves and behave like a top-six team. And if we can hang about there as long as possible, then who knows. I want us to keep our shoulder to the wheel and keep churning out wins.”

St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson was disappointed as his team’s recent struggles continued and admitted they need a change of luck quickly to try to turn things around.

He said: “Everything is going against us at this moment in time. When you’re not scoring or you make an error, we get punished.

“We’ve not become a bad team but sometimes when luck isn’t with you it goes against you. I don’t think the belief has gone because you don’t dominate the ball like we did.

“I’ve not lost belief in the boys. We just need someone to step up to score and our movement can be better in the box. It’s up to me to sort that out.

“We’re getting good performances within the team. I take the blame as I signed the players but we’re just not having the rub of the green. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Kilmarnock strengthened their grip on fourth place in the cinch Premiership as Marley Watkins’ goal sealed a 1-0 win away to St Mirren.

The first-half strike helped extend Derek McInnes’ side’s recent good run of form to four wins and a draw from their last five games.

In contrast, St Mirren are in the midst of a slump that has seen them win just once in seven games, Stephen Robinson’s men a shadow of the side that started the season in sparkling form.

Robinson made two changes from Saints’ weekend defeat to Hearts. In came James Bolton and Toyosi Olusunya, replacing Thierry Small and Alex Greive.

For Kilmarnock there was just once change following their win over St Johnstone, with Matty Kennedy replacing Liam Polworth.

The hosts had the first real chance of the game as Richard Taylor fizzed in a long-range effort that Will Dennis did well to hold onto.

St Mirren had the ball in the net after 14 minutes when Jonah Ayunga bundled it in after Dennis had saved Olusunya’s effort only for it to be chalked out for offside.

Killie took a while to get going and from one promising attack, Danny Armstrong swept his shot well off target.

It was the visitors, though, who went in front after 25 minutes. Kennedy played in Watkins and he finished well past Zach Hemming.

The home side responded with a low driven effort from Ayunga but it lacked the pace to trouble Dennis.

Kilmarnock were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position when Taylor brought down Armstrong and was booked. But Kennedy’s effort struck the defensive wall and trickled out for a corner.

At the other end, Dennis did well to repel Scott Tanser’s volley from just outside the box as St Mirren tried to get back into the contest.

After all the heavy rain earlier in the day, the surface was unsurprisingly slippery and Alex Gogic picked up a booking after losing his footing and inadvertently brought down Brad Lyons.

Greg Kiltie had the first chance of note in the second half but his looped effort was easily gathered by Dennis.

Robinson turned to his bench to try to gain some fresh impetus, sending on Mika Mandron and Conor McMenamin.

The Northern Ireland international nearly made an instant impact but his flashing effort flew across the face of goal with no takers in the middle.

Dennis then pulled off a brilliant save to tip Bolton’s header over the crossbar as St Mirren belatedly began to exert some pressure.

That was matched at the other end by a stunning Zach Hemming save to push away Rory McKenzie’s goal-bound volley as Killie racked up a precious away win.

Stuart Findlay believes an increasingly rounded Kilmarnock side will go into the cinch Premiership game against St Mirren on Wednesday night with growing confidence.

The 2-1 win over St Johnstone on Saturday thanks to first-half goals from 18-year-old midfielder David Watson and 33-year-old striker Marley Watkins – Saints substitute Nicky Clarke pulled a goal back in the second half – took Derek McInnes’s side into fourth place in the table, a point above the Buddies.

Killie are unbeaten in four matches and although their away league form this season has not been great – one win in nine – Findlay noted the side’s different qualities and the encouraging results so far.

The 28-year-old defender, on loan from Oxford, said:  “We’ve won big games this season and that stands us in good stead.

“However, it’s not about winning important matches – it’s about winning consistently.

“Obviously, we haven’t won every away game but we’ve won at Aberdeen and we haven’t been beaten in three of the others but that’s where the consistency comes in.

“We know that, on our day, we can take anyone in the league. We’ve shown that by beating Celtic twice and beating Rangers. We also gave Hearts a really tough game at Tynecastle and they’re the top three teams in the Premiership.

“So we don’t need to fear any opponent when we’re on our game. Our displays have mostly been good this season, although in certain games we’ve had to show different characteristics.

“For example, in the second half of the most recent win over Celtic it was all about our high-tempo press. We nullified them and then ran over the top of them.

“In the first half against St Johnstone on Saturday we showed our attacking prowess, which we don’t really get enough credit for.

“Then, when they came back into the game after the break we showed a real grittiness to hold on to the three points.

“You need different qualities in different games and if you’re going to have a successful season then you need all of those things put together for the team to click.”

Findlay held back from speaking directly about finishing high enough for a European spot.

The former Philadelphia Union player said: “It’s too early to look at what you want to do with this season. The manager has said we should be a top-six team and, if you are there, you’re in touch with the European places.

“This isn’t me saying that we’re not looking towards qualifying for it but the big thing for us has been to establish ourselves in the top half of the division which we’ve done so far.

“That’s the only way we can look at it but if things keep going our way and it starts to point in that direction we can review that towards the end of the season.”

Page 1 of 2
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.