Gary Kirkpatrick @ Rugby Park
Killie struck twice in extra time to dump Queen of the South out of the Scottish FA Youth Cup in a drama-filled encounter at Rugby Park.
With the score tied at 1-1 following the full-time whistle, both sides seemed inseparable heading into the additional thirty minutes of play.
With just two minutes of extra time played, the young Ayrshiremen were staring down the barrel when QoS took a dramatic 2-1 lead.
A disappointing defeat was looming but the home side dug deep to fight back and fire two goals in eight extra time minutes past QoS goalkeeper Jack Leighfield.
However, Killie were steadily growing into the match midway through the first half and saw strikes from Jack Whittaker and Scott McLean fly just wide of the target.
QoS almost caught Killie off guard when Ryan Nelson’s sweetly struck volley smashed the woodwork for a second time after some impressive build-up play.
The Rugby Park side were productive in their play but were found out repeatedly in defence. Some shoddy marking let in QoS’ Connor Murray but his close-range shot was blocked well by Darren Curtis.
On the 44th minute, it seemed the score was staying at 0-0 heading into the interval. That wasn’t to be the case, as Kilmarnock put themselves in front.
Whittaker carried the ball at frightening speed down the left flank to the byline before cutting the ball back to an unmarked McLean, who swept home with his left foot.
The second half began and nerves were already apparent within the Killie ranks when QoS full-back Jack Bannan saw his free strike at goal denied by keeper Lyle. Let-off for coach Paul Stephenson’s team.
QoS were clearly in the mood for an equaliser with further attempts from Fergusson and Owen Bell working Killie’s man between the sticks.
The away side hustled and harried at Killie’s naive backline and finally found a breakthrough following a free-kick just outside the box. Murray’s initial dead-ball attempt was blocked but he tucked away the rebound to level the score.
Killie’s tall striker Innes Cameron sought an immediate reply after a superb driving run on the right wing. He got himself into the box with ball at feet but his eventual shot was deflected wide.
Stephenson was visibly disappointed with his side’s second half showing after 70 minutes. But when his players finally put together four or five passes, a “hallelujah” was heard from the Englishman on the touchline.
From that moment onwards, Killie actually began to play some decent stuff. McLean was inches away from scoring his second but he mis-hit the ball following Whittaker’s cross.
It was neck and neck as full-time approached but QoS almost grabbed the winner when they struck the crossbar for the third time, on this occasion via Murray’s 25-yard screamer. It wasn’t to be and extra time was to be played.
On 92 minutes, Owen Moxon turned brilliantly and handed QoS the advantage with a low drive into the corner. 2-1 and QoS seemingly heading through.
On 99 minutes, Killie dramatically pegged the away side back via substitute Oliver McDonald’s well-executed looping header, with keeper Leighfield stranded. 2-2 and the tension ramping up.
With 107 minutes played, Cameron sent the home fans into raptures when smashed in what turned out to be the winner of a crazy cup tie. McDonald could have killed the contest with seconds to go but saw his shot smack the post.
Finally the full-time whistle sounded and Killie found themselves in the hat for the next round of the SFA Youth Cup. What a game and credit to both sides for providing a cracking cup game.
All images © Gary Kirkpatrick and should not be reproduced without his permission