Relief rather than joy for Muirhead after drought ends
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.”
AT THE DOUBLE: Robbie Muirhead celebrates the first of his two goals for Partick Thistle against Kilmarnock.