Two first-half strikes from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell were enough for Kilmarnock as they kept up their remarkable home record with a comfortable 2-0 Ladbrokes Premiership victory over Hamiton.
The win, Killie’s eighth in the last nine league games at Rugby Park, keeps them in pole position to finish fifth while defeat for the visitors means they are still looking anxiously over their shoulder at the relegation scrap.
It was not a sensational performance from Steve Clarke’s side – but the near 5,000-strong home support still left well satisfied with what they had watched.
The game was a turgid affair for long spells with the in-form hosts only showing their full capabilities in glimpses. Boss Steve Clarke had rung the changes with top-six football already guaranteed post-split and some tougher looking matches on the horizon. Consistent performers Youssouf Mulumbu and Jordan Jones were rested and the Ayrshire side did perhaps miss their energy and drive at times.
Only five minutes had elapsed by the time Erwin had the hosts in front. O’Donnell floated in a cross to the back post and the former Motherwell man used all of his strength and finesse to first touch the ball past the defender and then smash it into the net.
Rory McKenzie then sent a swerving volley just over the bar minutes later. The emphatic right-footed strike would have been a contender for goal of the season had it found a way past goalkeeper Gary Woods.
Former Accies favourite Eamonn Brophy then fizzed a shot over as the onslaught continued and then right on the stroke of half-time, Killie doubled their advantage.
The industrious O’Donnell will probably score better goals in his career, but he’s unlikely to score many more bizarre ones. His prodded effort from 30 yards out would barely have registered as a shot on most occasions. But the ball bobbled and trickled, and aided by a deflection, found its way past the despairing Woods in the 49th minute of the first half.
The Lanarkshire outfit did create a string of chances late on but Killie could have been out of sight by that stage with Alan Power going close from long range and Kris Boyd denied a goal by a stunning save from Woods. The Accies keeper clawed away the top scorer’s hooked effort from close range – but that was a rare highlight for the visitors as they fell to a sixth defeat in nine games.