Kelly brace earns Killie victory

The midfielder, who signed a two-and-a-half year deal on Friday,

finished off assists from Ben Gordon with either foot to continue

Kilmarnock’s impressive form. Derek Riordan’s magnificent

long-range strike brought Hibs back into the game early in the

second half. But Edwin de Graaf wasted their best opportunity to

level and their chances were further diminished when Liam Miller

was sent off following some sustained indecision from referee Craig

Thomson. Much of the Rugby Park pitch was covered in a light

sprinkling of snow after a fresh outbreak within two hours of

kick-off, but Kilmarnock were still largely successful in playing

the attractive brand of passing football that has now earned them

five wins in seven SPL games. The home side started well and almost

benefited from several early through balls to Conor Sammon, who saw

a diving header saved by Mark Brown in the opening stages.

Hibernian also had an early chance when a slip by James Fowler let

in Miller, but the midfielder could not adjust his body properly

and stabbed wide from six yards. Killie took the lead in the ninth

minute when Kelly finished off a wonderful flowing move. Mehdi

Taouil opened up Hibs by playing a reverse pass inside Michael Hart

for Ben Gordon, who squared for Kelly to stroke the ball into the

corner from 15 yards with his right foot. Kilmarnock took a firm

grip of possession and threatened again from Alexei Eremenko’s

corner, but neither Manuel Pascali or Craig Bryson could get a

decisive touch. Hibs were playing a fluid formation with Miller and

David Wotherspoon supporting Riordan from midfield and they were

getting enough men forward to trouble Killie on occasion. The

closest they came in the first half was when the ball broke for

John Rankin 18 yards out, but Cammy Bell got down to block his

18-yard strike with his foot. But the home side moved further ahead

in the 43rd minute when Kelly produced another first-time finish

inside the penalty box. Jamie Hamill’s diagonal ball eventually

fell for Gordon and his inside pass was swept home by Kelly from 10

yards with his left foot. The second half started in uneventful

fashion until Riordan produced a piece of magic 10 minutes in. The

forward instantly took advantage of a few yards of room almost 25

yards out to unleash an unstoppable swerving strike into the top

corner. Hibs quickly brought on Colin Nish for Rankin and pushed

more men forward. But they still struggled to cut open the

Kilmarnock defence and the hosts began to find some rhythm

previously missing in the second half to exploit gaps in the

visiting defence. Kelly saw a powerful long-range strike held by

Brown, who then stretched to tip away Gordon’s rising strike. Hibs

centre-back Sol Bamba went off with 15 minutes left with Jonathan

Grounds moving inside and Daniel Galbraith coming on at left-back.

The visitors had the chance to level in the 78th minute when a

brilliant piece of skill from Wotherspoon finally opened up the

home defence. He laid the ball to de Graaf in the inside right

channel but the Dutchman took a heavy touch and blasted the ball

into the side net to the disgust of three team-mates inside the

box. Hibernian’s chances were soon undone when Miller was sent off

after several minutes of controversy and confusion. The Irishman

clipped the legs of Sammon as the striker ran into the diagonal

edge of box following a slip by Grounds. Thomson gave a free-kick

and maintained his decision following talks with assistant Brian

McGarry as the home side claimed the offence had taken place inside

the area. Killie looked set to take the free-kick before another

delay ensued as Thomson consulted fourth official Thomas Robertson,

with the outcome being a straight red card. The free-kick was taken

short before eventually falling for Fowler, whose powerful volley

was tipped over by Brown and Kelly almost claimed his hat-trick

only for Hamill to over-hit his cutback.