Jig of de­light that says ‘we are stay­ing up’ after play-off es­cape

Clark pulls sur­vival out of the bag as side over­turns deficit with plenty to spare

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT MULLEN AT RUGBY PARK

LEE Clark, the Kil­marnock man­ager, has warned the club must use yes­ter­day’s Lad­brokes Premier­ship play-off es­cape as a warn­ing if they are to avoid a sim­i­lar fate or worse next sea­son.

The Rugby Park club fin­ished the cam­paign 11th place and went into yes­ter­day’s sec­ond leg 1-0 down fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s de­feat at the Falkirk Sta­dium. De­spite that back­drop, Clark’s team were stun­ning in front of 11,000 in Ayr­shire to win 4-0 on the day and 4-1 on ag­gre­gate, en­sur­ing Kil­marnock main­tain a top-flight sta­tus that has stood for 23 years.

How­ever, the English­man in­sists the club must take stock after their nar­row es­cape.

“I told the play­ers to cel­e­brate but it’s a lit­tle warn­ing sig­nal to ev­ery­one con­nected to the club,” said the Kil­marnock man­ager. “The club has been in and around this po­si­tion for too long. If you keep do­ing that even­tu­ally you get found out and even­tu­ally the worst-case sce­nario hap­pens. That has to be ad­dressed and we have to move for­ward.

“You’ve got to be ruth­less. I know where I want to go and we are mak­ing in­roads on play­ers as we speak.”

The scenes of cel­e­bra­tion at full-time – in­clud­ing a pitch in­va­sion of a few hun­dred Kil­marnock fans – was jus­ti­fied, with even Peter Hous­ton, the Falkirk man­ager, un­able to com­plain about the sad end to his team’s sea­son.

“We have to learn,” he said.

SORRY Falkirk, there aren’t enough in­jury time min­utes left this decade that will get you out of this one. Ten times this sea­son the Championship club have struck be­yond the 90-minute mark.

Four times in their last seven matches, no less. The lat­est ex­am­ple of their pen­chant for the dra­matic oc­curred just three days prior to this Lad­brokes Premier­ship play-off sec­ond leg as Will Vaulks’ in­jury-time win­ner sent them to Rugby Park with a foot seem­ingly al­ready in the top flight.

It was booted out within just three min­utes yes­ter­day. In an ex­tra­or­di­nary and grip­ping game that could never ever be de­scribed as a con­test, a Kil­marnock team that for much of the sea­son looked as if they couldn’t beat an egg oblit­er­ated Falkirk’s re­solve.

Ahead on the day and level on ag­gre­gate thanks to Greg Kiltie’s com­posed strike in the open­ing sec­onds, they were truly up and run­ning on nine min­utes when burly cen­tre-half Miles Ad­di­son crashed home his team’s sec­ond.

In truth that prob­a­bly would have been enough to deal with a Falkirk team that showed lit­tle of the cre­ativ­ity or nous that has earned them so much credit this sea­son.

Nev­er­the­less, Lee Clark’s team con­tin­ued their dom­i­nance and even­tu­ally got the two fur­ther goals to com­plete the rout, Kiltie grab­bing a sec­ond on 62 min­utes be­fore Kris Boyd tapped home his sev­enth goal of the sea­son.

Huge credit for this re­cov­ery has to go to Clark. The pas­sion­ate 43-year-old was brought to the club in Fe­bru­ary to take over a team in the eyes of many des­tined for the fate that even­tu­ally be­fell them.

Even go­ing into yes­ter­day’s sec­ond leg, the former New­cas­tle United player was un­wa­ver­ing in the be­lief that the group of play­ers that shipped that late goal at the Falkirk Sta­dium could blow away their op­po­nents here and main­tain their top flight sta­tus.

Per­haps even Clark could not have ex­pected this. There are no superstars among his num­ber, but to a man they were head and shoul­ders above those in dark blue op­po­site them here. Even the enig­matic Tope Obadeyi was a tri­umph in the Kil­marnock sun­shine with two as­sists, de­spite still giv­ing the 7000 or so home sup­port­ers the odd gasp of ex­ac­er­ba­tion as he bounded down the left flank.

To say it was a dis­ap­point­ing end to the sea­son for Falkirk would be some­thing of an un­der­state­ment. They car­ried a nar­row lead to Rugby Park that even Hous­ton him­self said they were for­tu­nate to get, but the waste­ful­ness of their pass­ing and ner­vous­ness of their play on Thurs­day was not a patch on their per­for­mance here. Out­fought and out­played by Kil­marnock, they failed to set­tle quickly in a rau­cous at­mos­phere and never re­cov­ered from the con­ces­sion of the opener on three min­utes.

Ma­gen­nis burst to the bye­line in a crowded box but was still able to draw the ball back to the un­marked Kiltie eight yards out, who took one touch be­fore smash­ing the ball low un­der­neath Danny Rogers.

Strike two was a great ex­am­ple of the same kind of in­ven­tive­ness that Falkirk dis­played on Thurs­day. In­stead it was Kil­marnock’s turn as Ma­gen­nis took a short throw in to fool the vis­it­ing de­fence.

The ball was picked up by Lee Hod­son who was al­lowed space to cross deep to the back post for Obadeyi to head back across with Ad­di­son rush­ing in to a ruck of play­ers be­fore even­tu­ally bundling it over the line.

De­spite a sclaffed Craig Sib­bald short, Falkirk huffed and puffed dur­ing this game as they slowly started to creep back into the sec­ond half. How­ever, any slim hope was wiped out just after the hour. A stray pass was picked up by Obadeyi, send­ing the English­man on a lung-burst­ing run down the left. He beat full-back Aaron Muir­head with ease ahead of a cute cut­back, al­low­ing Kiltie to calmly drill the ball un­der­neath Rogers just as he did on three min­utes.

Three min­utes later and the party could start. Ma­gen­nis avaded a lunge from Lee Miller be­fore round­ing David McCracken be­fore squar­ing to Boyd to tap in.

By the time the board went up for three min­utes left, even the sight of Harry Hou­dini get­ting stripped in the Falkirk dug out would not have of­fered much hope to the 4,400 trav­el­ling fans who came to Ayr­shire. They turned up, ques­tions will be asked if those in their team did like­wise.

PUTTING THE TIN LID ON IT: The Falkirk play­ers look shell­shocked as Greg Kiltie scores his sec­ond of the game

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