Scottish Premier League

Killie knockback hits Hay hard

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Sun, 07 Apr 2013 17:28:00

Brendan Rodgers felt his Liverpool team were unfortunate to be restricted to a 0-0 draw against West Ham on Sunday.

Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession but were unable to break down a resilient Hammers team that came close to finding the breakthrough when Jack Collison's header was cleared off the line.

But Rodgers was left pointing to a questionable offside decision that denied Daniel Sturridge in the second half and would not criticise his players for the goalless draw that leaves them seventh.

"We obviously played very well," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "I thought some of our game today was very good.

"We had to control West Ham, coming off the back of a good result against West Brom, on the counter-attack and I thought we did that well.

"Offensively our drive and determination going forward was very good in our game. But you need the energy to keep persevering until you get the goal.

"Obviously when we did get the goal it was deemed offside and if you watch it again it was clearly onside so that was the bit of luck we needed to get the goal and open the game up.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't to be."

With the Edinburgh club far ahead of Dundee in 11th, prior to Saturday's match, and already confined to the bottom six, a lack of fighting spirit would have been forgivable against a Ross County side chasing Europe.

A point, never mind three, looked unlikely as time ticked away with the hosts trailing to an impressive double by Steffen Wohlfarth. The German, making his first start for County, scored a cracking opener after firing the ball into the top corner from a tight angle before restoring his side's advantage, scoring a header five minutes after Michael Ngoo had done so for Hearts.

However, Hearts responded with three goals in five minutes to steal all three points. Despite having little to play for in the league table, Stevenson sees the victory as an important one for a young Hearts side.

"I don't think we've come from the behind this season and won," said Stevenson.

"It's a big result this. Where we are in the league table, looking at it it's grim, and with the cup final not too long ago, there is still a bit of gloom about the place. So we just want to try and finish the season as strong as we can, to see if we can get seventh place.

"The win gives everybody a lift."

The fightback was inspired by a double substitution at half-time, and the late addition of John Sutton, which put more emphasis on getting balls into the penalty area. When County failed to deal with one such cross, Jason Holt hooked in a 20-yard shot to bring Hearts level before a wild attempted clearance from Evangelos Ikonomou gave the home team the lead. Ngoo wrapped the points up with an 84th-minute drive under Michael Fraser.

The second-half display instilled the confidence in Gary Locke, winning his first match since being made permanent manager, that his players are willing to fight until the end of the season.

"The players showed the type of spirit and fighting qualities that I am looking for," said Locke.

"If they give me that between now and the end of the season then I will be happy.

"I'm not bothered about any other team and where they are. I am just concerned about putting on performances here that the fans are going to like and try and get as many points as we can. Then we'll see where that takes us."

Ross County boss Derek Adams watched, for the second week in succession, his side dominate a game but take nothing from it. Trailing Inverness by six points in third place, he admitted that achieving a European place may now be unlikely.

"We've had a terrific season but we will start looking towards next season now," admitted Adams.

"Looking at who we could maybe sign for next season and enjoy the last five games of the current one.

"Europe is now Motherwell and Inverness' really."

The Rugby Park side hosted the Arabs' city rivals Dundee yesterday knowing a victory would guarantee them a place in the upper half of the table.

But another of Hay's former Killie colleagues Gary Harkins returned to his old stomping ground to score twice and consign the hosts to a 2-1 defeat.

However, with United and Aberdeen looking set for a stalemate and Hibernian pushed aside by SPL leaders Celtic, Killie were all set to qualify for the top six on goal difference.

Boulding's late intervention, though, was enough to see Jackie McNamara's side pinch Killie's slot in sixth-place.

As if that was not bad enough, Hay revealed it was only after the final whistle the devastating news was broken to him that Kilmarnock were clinging on to their coveted position until United's 93rd-minute winner.

He told Press Association Sport: "It's hard to have fallen at the last hurdle. We thought we needed the draw to clinch a top-six place but I've just heard we were sneaking in on goal difference before United scored, so that makes it even more gutting.

"We never gave ourselves a proper chance and didn't play well enough.

"It's ironic that we have been done in by two former team-mates.

"Scotland is a small fish bowl and that type of thing can happen. Players move on and now Gary has come back to haunt us, while Rory has scored the winner for United as well."

Harkins - who netted after just six minutes before adding a second just moments after Kris Boyd's 73rd-minute equaliser - admitted he took satisfaction after saving his side from relegation at a ground where he spent most of his final few months watching from the stands.

Dundee would have been demoted back to the Irn-Bru First Division after just a season in the top flight had they lost yesterday.

But Harkins proved Killie boss Kenny Shiels had been wrong to drop him from his side before eventually sanctioning his January move to Dens Park with a deadly double.

He said: "I enjoyed it to be honest but I feel for the Killie players. They have worked hard all season under difficult circumstances.

"But in football you need to put friendships aside. I did that and scored two goals. I knew I was good enough to play at Rugby Park and I hoped I proved that.

"You have situations in any job where you don't get on with the boss but I moved club and got on with things.

"Maybe Kenny will go home and look at things differently. I didn't have a point to prove as the players at Killie knew I should have played and they will tell you that if you ask them. I went through a year and half of being brought off every week no matter how I was playing.

"But you couldn't legislate for both myself and Rory coming back to the club and haunting them.

"It would have been horrible if we were to relegated at my old ground so I'm delighted and now we need to try and win every game we have left."

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