Relief rather than joy for Muir­head af­ter drought ends

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL - RICHARD PIDGEON AT RUGBY PARK

AL­MOST two decades have passed since Jorg Al­bertz and his lethal left foot ar­rived on these shores to spark col­lec­tive ter­ror among goal­keep­ers and de­fen­sive walls alike but per­haps it is once again ‘Ham­mer’ time in Scot­tish foot­ball.

Cer­tainly, the left-foot can­non­ball with which Partick This­tle’s Rob­bie Muir­head de­liv­ered the coup de grace to Kil­marnock was rem­i­nis­cent of the pow­er­ful Ger­man in his pomp. It added to the teenager’s rep­u­ta­tion for long-range strikes and was the highlight of an even­tual 5-2 shel­lack­ing of his for­mer club.

Muir­head, on loan at Firhill from Dundee United, was still in swad­dling when Al­bertz was wreck­ing rig­ging in nets across Scotland but is quickly es­tab­lish­ing his own rep­u­ta­tion as a dan­ger from dis­tance. He said: “It is def­i­nitely one of my best goals, just be­hind the one I scored in the sum­mer for the Scotland Un­der-19s.”

That su­pe­rior strike was a 40-yarder against Nor­way that saw the 19-year-old nominated along­side foot­ball lu­mi­nar­ies Lionel Messi, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo in UEFA’s goal of the sea­son com­pe­ti­tion.

If that cat­a­pulted the teenager to wider recog­ni­tion, Rugby Park fans were al­ready well aware of Muir­head’s au­da­cious left foot. “I man­aged to score a good one from dis­tance for Kil­lie against Mother­well last sea­son.

“To be fair, I had tried a sim­i­lar shot in the first half to­day and it fin­ished nearer the cor­ner flag but I am blam­ing the con­di­tions for that!”

Ah, the con­di­tions . . . Howl­ing winds bat­tered Rugby Park through­out, with the skies hurl­ing down a sod­den sym­phony of freez­ing rain and sleet and all four cor­ner flags blow­ing in con­tra­dic­tory di­rec­tions. It was Kil­marnock’s de­fence who stood frozen when Steven Lawless slipped Kris Doolan in af­ter seven min­utes and the striker slot­ted be­yond Jamie MacDon­ald. On the quar­ter-hour mark, Doolan headed home from a tight an­gle for his sec­ond goal of the day, and his fourth against Kil­marnock this sea­son.

Josh Ma­gen­nis volleyed home mid­way through the open­ing 45 but the curse of the slow start struck again af­ter the in­ter­val and Gary Fraser fired home This­tle’s third in 53 min­utes. Muir­head’s spec­tac­u­lar ef­fort just af­ter the hour made it 4-1 and, de­spite Mark Con­nolly head­ing home Ste­vie Smith’s free-kick on 72 min­utes, Muir­head rounded off a fine team move with a pre­cise left-foot fin­ish three min­utes later.

“I ac­tu­ally en­joyed my sec­ond goal more,” the Irvine-born Muir­head added. “The first one was my first goal of the sea­son so it was al­most more of a relief.”

The win saw the Glasgow side leapfrog their Ayr­shire hosts and vault nine points above base­ment side Dundee United, a sit­u­a­tion that could eas­ily leave the on-loan for­ward with mixed feel­ings, given he be­gan his ca­reer at Rugby Park and is cur­rently em­ployed by the strug­gling Tan­nadice club.

“I keep in touch with a few of the United boys, and I ob­vi­ously wish them all the best, al­though they might not be too happy with me to­day! My job is to do my best for This­tle while I am here, and see what hap­pens when I go back to Tan­nadice in Jan­uary.

“The man­ager [Mixu Paate­lainen] has spo­ken to my agent just to let me know where I stand.”

About the only thing that didn’t emerge from the dark clouds that wreathed Rugby Park was a sil­ver lin­ing, ac­cord­ing to Kil­marnock cap­tain Con­nolly.

“We were ter­ri­ble, ev­ery sin­gle one of us. It was em­bar­rass­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter work­ing so hard to get a draw at Celtic last week.

“When we went be­hind, we lost our dis­ci­pline and shape and started chas­ing the game too much. They were break­ing four on two against us at times and that just shouldn’t hap­pen.

“The boss asked us if we were ner­vous about play­ing at home and, I don’t know, maybe some of the lads are feel­ing that pres­sure. The fans pay their money and they de­serve a lot bet­ter than that.”

Picture: SNS

AT THE DOU­BLE: Rob­bie Muir­head cel­e­brates the first of his two goals for Partick This­tle against Kil­marnock.

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