Killie 3-1 Hibs
SPL, May 7th 2006, Rugby Park
SPL, May 7th 2006, Rugby Park
Kilmarnock 0 (3) Hibernian (1) 1
(SPL Match 38, Rugby Park, May 7th, 2006)
Killie produced a fine second-half fight-back against Hibernian to ensure their coffers swelled by an extra £70,000. They did have to lean on Alan Combe's performance to keep them only a goal adrift at the half.
The Rugby Park side clinched fifth place in the Bank of Scotland Premier League as they leapfrogged Aberdeen, although the Easter Road club were the architects of their own downfall.
Killie started brightly (in their new 06-07 yellow away kit!) and Nish saw a top-corner bound header pushed over the crossbar by Malkowski.
However, Hibs opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Fletcher held off Frazer Wright to fire into the roof of the net.
Nish shot just wide before Paul Dalglish missed a good opportunity to double Hibs' lead as Alan Combe palmed his effort away.
Naismith almost drew his side level after 37 minutes when he collected a pass from Gary Wales and, from 20 yards, drilled in a low shot, which Malkowski did well to turn round the post.
Combe pulled off another smart save to deny Steven Whittaker and Kilmarnock were back on level terms within three minutes of the restart.
Murphy blocked Nish's overhead kick on the line with his hand, conceding a penalty and being shown a red card for his trouble.
From the spot, Stephen Naismith made no mistake, sending Malkowski the wrong way.
Hibs almost immediately restored their lead as Whittaker played in Dalglish, but, once again, Combe denied the striker.
Hibs had a shout for a penalty rejected when Greer tripped Fletcher, but referee Alan Freeland deemed the offence to be just outside the area and, from the free-kick, Combe did well to hold Gary Caldwell's shot.
Kilmarnock took the lead in the 72nd minute with a stunning Gordon Greer strike.
Hibs were unable to clear Leven's free-kick and the ball fell to Greer who, from 10 yards, hit an unstoppable volley past Malkowski.
Killie wrapped up the points in the 75th minute as Colin Nish grabbed the third with another stunning strike.
Another Leven free-kick was not properly dealt with by Hibs' defence again and the striker gathered the ball on his chest, swivelled and volleyed the ball into the top corner.
With three minutes remaining, Hibs were reduced to nine men as Malkowski was sent off.
The Hibs goalkeeper had already been booked after Killie's third goal and then made a gesture to linesman Stuart Macauley when he failed to flag Nish for offside and received a second booking.
Although Hibs may felt aggrieved at not getting a penalty after Naismith's conversion, it should be noted that Killie, also had genuine penalty claims of their own when Dean Shiels bundled Naismith off the ball while the Young Player of the Year was unlucky not to score his second late on with an effort that bounced off the base of a post.
It was an upbeat way to end the season for Kilmarnock, who exceeded expectations to a remarkable degree and fully deserved the lap of honour they were awarded by their fans at the end.
Killie: Combe, Fowler, Greer, Leven, Locke (Wilson 79), Wright, Wales, (Murray 72), Invincibile, (Di Giacomo 84), Johnston, Naismith, Nish
Subs Not Used: Smith, McDonald, O'Leary, Campbell,
Jim Jefferies on the Hibs Post Match... "We deserve it, we've been fifth for most of the season. It was a great finish in front of our own supporters and I thought we played some great stuff. The extra £70,000 helps the club as the higher we finish, the more we get. The players can be well satisfied and coming fifth speaks volumes for the squad. It has been hard ever since I have been here, but we accept it and get on with it. We finished seventh last season and fifth this year. It'll be hard to top that, but we'll consolidate and try to do better."
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