Hot Goal Time Machine: Kilmarnock

May 13, 2014

For a description of exactly what this series is about and how the idea was formed then be sure to read the open letter at the top of our opening blog. For the rest we’ll summarise: we’ve asked a blogger from every team in the Scottish top flight to recall their favourite goal from every season since 1998. For Kilmarnock we thought of no-one better than our very own Craig Anderson. He may have been boycotting since last August but that doesn’t stop him taking a pleasurable stroll down memory lane.

1998/99 – Kevin McGowne. Motherwell 1-2 Kilmarnock (1/1/99)

The whole notion seems ludicrous now, but as we all celebrated New Year in 1999, Killie were still involved in the SPL title race. Bobby Williamson’s side, built on the best defensive record in the UK, had lost just three of their opening 20 matches and sat in 2nd place in the league, just six points behind Rangers. On New Year’s Day we travelled to Fir Park knowing that a win would put pressure on Rangers, who hosted Celtic two days later.

Killie took an early lead through Ally McCoist, but Motherwell levelled things up through Ged Brannan before half-time. With less than five minutes remaining it looked like the title challenge would falter, but then the side showed their famed determination and grabbed the winner from an unlikely source. McCoist won the ball back and found centre-back Kevin McGowne 25 yards from goal, and the big man slammed a daisy-cutter into the bottom corner to spark bedlam in the away end. And when Rangers were held to a 2-2 draw by Celtic, some of us dared to dream.

Of course, it wasn’t to be. Following that game there was a three-week winter break, and the first game back was a Scottish Cup tie at Somerset Park. A rusty Killie side were thumped 3-0 by our bitter rivals, and never really recovered. We won just three of our last 15 league matches and finished 21 points behind Rangers. Our 4th place finish wasn’t even enough for a European place, but fortunately we sneaked into the UEFA Cup through the back door courtesy of one of the Fair Play spots.

1999/00 – Paul Wright. Kilmarnock 2-0 KR Reykjavik AET (26/8/99)

If Killie hadn’t been in Europe in the 1999/00 season, then I would really have struggled to find a positive memory from this season. At one point we went fourteen league games without a win, and we eventually scraped a second bottom finish ahead of one of the worst Aberdeen teams in living memory. Even the highlight of the season, the UEFA Cup victory over Icelandic side KR Reykjavik, was more about avoiding an embarrassment than achieving something special. The first leg in Iceland ended in a disappointing 1-0 defeat, but it was expected that the deficit would be easily overcome at home.

The second leg marked 100 years at Rugby Park for Killie, and there was a celebratory atmosphere inside the stadium ahead of the game. However as the clock ticked on and the match remained goalless the excitement turned to nerves and frustration, and there was a genuine fear that we might suffer a major giantkilling to equal the defeat to Coleraine in the 1970s. It took until the final minute for Killie to make the crucial breakthrough, when Jim Lauchlan’s volley was handled in the box by a KR Reykjavik defender. Paul Wright stepped up and smashed the penalty home to the relief of over 11,000 fans inside Rugby Park. Killie went on to win the tie courtesy of David Bagan’s goal two minutes into extra-time, before losing to German side Kaiserslautern in the next round. We did play in Europe again a few years later, but for me the Reykjavik game was the last great European night at Rugby Park. Hopefully we’ll get to experience some more eventually.

2000/01 – Christophe Cocard. Rangers 0-3 Kilmarnock (28/10/00)

Christophe Cocard was an expensive luxury that Killie couldn’t really afford. The former French international was allegedly on £6k a week during his time at Rugby Park, and though his talent was unquestionable, he didn’t always contribute as much as he should. However his performance in the 3-0 win at Ibrox has passed into Killie folklore. Not many players give the defending champions the runaround in their own backyard, and even fewer do it while wearing a pair of trainers. You see, Christophe may have earned over £300k per year to play football, but that apparently wasn’t enough money for him to realise that he needed to take his boots with him to a match.

The result was seen as a massive surprise at the time, but with hindsight, perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Killie had won six and drawn two of their last eight matches, while Rangers had suffered two consecutive defeats. Indeed, Killie were actually a point above their opponents in the table going into the game, but that didn’t stop the bookies offering odds of 7/1 on Bobby Williamson’s men. Cocard’s goal came after just six minutes. He picked up the ball and ran at the Rangers defence, before knocking it wide to Andy McLaren, who crossed it in for the Frenchman to knock past Jesper Christiansen. A Gary Holt goal and an Artur Numan OG rounded off the famous victory, and Killie went on to finish fourth and qualify for Europe.

(PS, what a pass from Durrant for the second goal!)

2001/02 – Chris Innes. Glenavon 0-1 Kilmarnock (9/8/01)

It’s not often you get to see your team win away from home in Europe, so this one has to be the pick of an otherwise nondescript season. This was my first (and so far only) away European match with Killie, and a bit crowd went across on the buses which left from Rugby Park that morning and came home on the last ferry. The game itself wasn’t a classic, but Killie always seemed to be in control and eventually grabbed a winner in stoppage time courtesy of Chris Innes. Garry Hay swung across a free-kick from the left and the big defender nodded it past the keeper to give us the advantage going into the second leg. We would finish the job with an unconvincing 1-0 win at Rugby Park, before suffering a narrow defeat to Viking Stavanger in the following round.

2002/03 – Gary McSwegan. Kilmarnock 6-2 Hibs (5/4/03)

I found it difficult to come up with a favourite goal from this season, and YouTube didn’t throw up anything in the way of clips, so I’ve decided to just go ahead and pick a goal from the most memorable match of the season. Ex-manager Bobby Williamson brought his Hibs side to Rugby Park to face a Killie side who were battling it out with Hearts for third place. Gary McDonald gave Killie the lead, before Ian Murray equalised for Hibs. Murray celebrated his goal by giving the finger to a section of the Killie support, which made what was to come even more pleasing for the home fans. Between the 24th and the 62nd minute, Gary McSwegan scored four times to take the score to 5-1 which must have left Murray feeling like a dick. Matty Jack and Kris Boyd* then traded goals near the end to hand Killie an emphatic 6-2 win.

It would be great for the narrative if McSwegan’s fourth goal was a 30 yard thunderbolt, but instead it was a tap in at the back post. I’ll pick that one anyway, because it was the first (and so far only) time I’ve seen a Killie player manage that feat. McSwegan never again hit those heights – indeed this single match contributed to a quarter of his entire tally of league goals in his two years at Killie. Killie missed out on third place but did finish off the season by denying Celtic the title on account of us not quite being pumped by as many goals as Dunfermline.

*Boyd obviously took inspiration from this, because about eighteen months later he went one better by scoring all five goals in a home win over Dundee Utd. One of the goals from that game may well have featured on the list had I not missed the game to attend a scout camp. Great decision, Craig.

2003/04 – Eric Skora. Celtic 5-1 Kilmarnock (31/1/04)

Before Eremenko, there was another god-like playmaker who captured the hearts of the Killie support, adding a bit of spark to what was a quite dismal season. Frenchman Eric Skora was signed on loan from Preston and after making his debut off the bench in a defeat to Hibs he was handed a starting berth for the trip to Parkhead the following week. Killie held firm at 0-0 until half-time, but folded in the second half and were 4-0 down by the time King Eric provided the goal of the game. He gathered the ball on the edge of the area and delivered a delicious lob over the head of Rab Douglas and in off the far post.

There’s something about a well executed chip which really gets me going. I intermittently check YouTube in the hope that someone uploads a clip of this goal so I can watch it again, but have yet to find it. Derek Riordan did something very similar for Hibs at the same ground a few years later, and that’s another one which seems to have vanished. Skora would go on to inspire an improvement in both form and entertainment in the latter part of that season, with his finest hour coming in a 4-0 win over Aberdeen in the final home game. Killie couldn’t afford the fee Preston wanted, and he was instead loaned to Wallsall. He would eventually return for a second spell, but injuries had taken their toll on him and despite spending two more years on the books he only managed five minutes of football near the end of a home game against Hearts before retiring at the age of 26. Since nobody can prove me wrong anyway, I’m going to say that but for those injuries he would probably be on the plane to Rio with the French squad this summer.

2004/05 – Steven Naismith. Hearts 2-2 Kilmarnock (5/2/05)

Sometimes you just know that a player is going to be special. Steven Naismith was one such player. Not only was he supremely talented, but his attitude and his will to win shone through right from the start. He made his breakthrough at the start of the 2004/05 season, with his debut against Celtic coming a month before his 18th birthday. He had to wait a while for his first goal (15 appearances in total), but he picked an incredibly good time to get it, notching a last minute equaliser in a pulsating Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle. Incidentally, the match was also Vladimir Romanov’s first game in charge of Hearts.

Jim Jefferies opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Colin Nish picked ahead of both Naismith and Kris Boyd in attack. Dennis Wyness opened the scoring, but Nish equalised before being forced off with an injury to be replaced by Boyd. Lee Miller put Hearts back into the lead on the stroke of half-time, and just after the hour mark Jefferies threw Naismith into the action. Alan Combe transformed into Lev Yashin to keep Killie in the game, and then even managed to have a hand in the equaliser. The Killie keeper launched a long free-kick into the box and Kris Boyd nodded across goal for Naismith to slam home and send fairly large away support home happy. The joy was fairly short-lived though – Killie were abject in the replay at Rugby Park and Hearts came away with a 3-1 win.

2005/06 – Steven Naismith. Livingston 0-3 Kilmarnock (26/11/05)

The middle part of this season arguably represented the peak of Jim Jefferies’ spell in charge of Killie. The team was packed with attacking talent, with Kris Boyd and Colin Nish up front, Steven Naismith and Danny Invincibile out wide and Allan Johnston pulling the strings in midfield. Despite this, I didn’t really have any single enduring memory from the season – there was no standout success, just lots of good results. Fortunately the club gave away a free “2005/06 Goals” DVD with the following year’s season ticket, so I had a quick watch of that to make my selection.

I’ve opted for Steven Naismith’s goal in the 3-0 win away to Livingston, because it summed up everything that was good about that team. Naismith got the ball on the right hand side, about 30 yards from his own goal and drove forward towards the halfway line before knocking a crossfield pass to Colin Nish. Nish dummied and let the ball run through to Allan Johnston about 25 yards from goal. Johnston took a touch, noticed that Naismith had continued his run and knocked a through ball into the path of the striker, who poked it home to put us 2-0 up.

The game was part of a sensational run of form, where we only lost three of our 19 league matches between the end of October and the start of April – two against Rangers and one against Celtic. Even the departure of Kris Boyd (who had scored 17 goals before he left in December) didn’t seem to affect the team, with Gary Wales providing an able replacement. However we seemed to hit a wall at the start of April, taking just five points from our last eight matches to eventually finish 5th.

2006/07 – Stevie Naismith. Kilmarnock 3-0 Falkirk (30/1/07)

The third part of the Steven Naismith trilogy comes from one of my favourite games watching Killie: the 2006/07 League Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Fir Park. We were doing well in the league again, but really needed something tangible to show for our sustained good form, and the League Cup provided that opportunity. The sides were fairly evenly matched, with Killie just three points ahead of the Bairns, but Killie gained a psychological advantage by beating them 2-0 in the league just three days before the semi. Naismith scored in that game, but Falkirk didn’t heed the warning and he would go on to score a hat-trick at Fir Park.

All three goals were special in their own way – the first was crucial in handing us the lead against the run of play, and the third capped off the victory – but I’ve picked the second goal as my favourite because that was the moment that we knew we were off to the final. A long bouncing ball was played out of defence and Naismith brought it down with his head before lashing a powerful first-time volley past Kasper Schmeichel from the edge of the box. It was superb piece of technique from a fantastic player. Let’s just not mention the final.

2007/08 – Paul di Giacomo v Hearts (10/5/08)

This was a hard one to pick because we were pretty awful for most of this season. The cup disappointment in the previous season was the turning point in Jim Jefferies’ reign, and it was pretty much downhill from there. The nadir was reached when we went 4-0 down to Gretna at Fir Park – even bringing it back to 4-2 didn’t really spare our blushes. The only real positive memory I have from the season is the 2-0 win at Tynecastle on the penultimate week of the season. I actually had an exam in Glasgow on the morning of the match and headed straight through to the game, so I’m pretty sure it’ll be the only time I’ve ever taken a ruler and a calculator to a football match.

Killie’s season can basically be summed up in one name – Paul Dalglish. He played six times for us, and in five of those games he was absolutely hopeless. But in this particular match against Hearts, he surprised us all by having a pretty good game on the right hand side of midfield, and it was his run and cross which set up di Giacomo to volley home our second goal from inside the area. We also went on to win our final match of the season at home to Falkirk, but still finished 11th.

2008/09 – Mehdi Taouil. Kilmarnock 3-1 Ayr (22/1/09)

It was another dismal league season for Killie, who were only really saved by the goals of January signing Kevin Kyle. We might not have been able to afford the big striker had it not been for the revenue created by two Ayrshire derbies in the Scottish Cup. The first match at Somerset Park was a pulsating 2-2 draw in horrible conditions, with Alex Williams grabbing a late equaliser for the home side after Allan Russell had missed a penalty for Killie.

There was an extra special narrative to the replay – the tournament was sponsored by the Scottish government’s “Homecoming Scotland” event, set up to celebrate 250 years since the birth of Ayrshire’s most famous export, Robert Burns. And the match itself was played just three days before Burns night. Over 11,500 fans packed into Rugby Park, and they saw Killie fall behind after ten minutes when Brian Prunty summoned the spirit of Maradona to punch home the opener. Simon Ford levelled things up just after half-time, but the balance of the tie seemed to swing back in Ayr’s favour with 20 minutes to go when David Fernandez was sent off after stupidly lashing out at Martyn Campbell.

However the red card seemed to energise Killie, and we took the lead about five minutes later. Taouil’s lovely flick found Bryson, who made a trademark surging run into the box before firing a powerful shot which was saved by Grindlay. The ball fell to Taouil on the penalty spot, and he fired it home to spark euphoric scenes in the home end. Simon Ford added his second a few minutes later, and then Taouil spent the last ten minutes taking the piss with some outrageous showboating which used to be on YouTube but which I can’t find any more. It was arguably Taouil’s finest hour in a Killie shirt.

2009/10 – Chris Maguire. Kilmarnock 1-0 Celtic (2/2/10)

Things would be a lot easier if I was asked for my favourite “opposition player skying the ball over the bar from close range” from this season – the enduring memory of the year is of Ryan Flynn’s sitter in the last couple of minutes of the last game of the season which kept Killie in the division. Finding a favourite goal is a bit more difficult, but I’ve plumped for Chris Maguire’s winner at home to Celtic. Jim Jefferies had been sacked at the start of January after two and a half years of poor form, and Jimmy Calderwood was brought in to keep us in the division.

On deadline day, Celtic’s signing of Robbie Keane had grabbed all the headlines, but Calderwood had also been busy, bringing in Chris Maguire on loan from his former club Aberdeen. Both strikers started the game, and Maguire stole the show by scoring the only goal while Cammy Bell performed heroics to deny Keane at the other end. The goal came after some great work from Mehdi Taouil on the left – he cut the ball back and Maguire slammed past Artur Boruc from an acute angle. The victory started a run of three straight league wins which had us all thinking that Calderwood was going to be the man to turn things around, but we only took eight points from our final 13 matches and only just stayed up thanks to the aforementioned sitter from Flynn.

2010/11 – Alexei Eremenko. Hearts 0-3 Kilmarnock (31/10/10)

This was the game which really kick-started the Mixu revolution. Killie had showed signs of what was to come in the opening two months of the season, but had struggled to turn stylish football into wins. Results the previous day had put Killie bottom of the league going into this game, so it was imperative that we got something in front of the Sky cameras at Tynecastle. After riding our luck in the first half, Frazer Wright gave us the lead on the stroke of half-time. Killie soaked up some pressure in the second half before Conor Sammon made it 2-0 with ten minutes remaining. And then Alexei did his thing.

Cammy Bell’s long clearance bounced inside the Hearts half and Ruben Palazuelos could only prod it into the path of Eremenko in the middle of the park around 30 yards from goal. The Finn took a couple of touches to set himself, spotted Kello off his line and then delivered an curling effort over the keeper’s head and into the net. If such effortless moments of genius don’t get you going, then I reckon there must be something wrong with you.

Killie never looked back from that moment onwards, and went on to win each of our next two matches by the same 3-0 scoreline. It started a run where we took 23 points from ten matches, with the only defeat being an unfortunate 3-2 reverse to Rangers. Without a doubt that was the best Kilmarnock side in my time watching the club, and the man at the centre of it was the most talented individual I’ve seen playing for us.

2011/12 – Dieter van Tornhout. Kilmarnock 1-0 Celtic (18/3/12)

I doubt there will be much disagreement about this one. After five League Cup final defeats, including the embarrassment of 2007, we finally got our hands on the trophy. Like most Killie fans, I wasn’t filled with a great deal of confidence going into the match – Celtic were on a long unbeaten run, and Killie’s form was pretty patchy. However as the clock ticked on and the match stayed goalless, confidence started to grow and it became apparent that the game was there to be won. Then with 15 minutes to go, Kenny Shiels made a bold decision.

Most managers would be inclined to hold out at 0-0 and see what happened, but Shiels decided to roll the dice and gamble. He took off midfielder Gary Harkins and brought on striker Dieter van Tornhout, changing from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2. After the game Shiels said that he planned the substitution because he knew it was the last thing Celtic would expect. The Belgian striker had only been at the club for two months, and hadn’t scored in his six appearances before the final. He would only ever score twice for the club, and was quite frankly rubbish. But on that day, his 27th birthday, he was in the right place at the right time.

The move which led to the goal was characteristic of the sort of intelligent and sweeping football played that season under Shiels. Ben Gordon won possession from Adam Matthews with a tackle in the left-back area, the ball broke to Paul Heffernan, who swept a pass across to Lee Johnson on the right. Johnson knocked the ball inside to James Fowler, who helped it on to Garry Hay. Hay knocked the ball out wide to Gordon, who played a lovely pass with the outside of his foot to Johnson, who had continued his run into the box. Johnson crossed to the back post, and van Tornhout nodded into the net to set off euphoric scenes in the Killie end.



2012/13 – Liam Kelly. Celtic 0-2 Kilmarnock (27/10/12)

Heading into this match, Killie hadn’t won away to Celtic since 1955, a run of 65 matches. Celtic had just narrowly lost away to Barcelona after conceding a stoppage time goal, while Killie had lost their last two matches against Aberdeen and St Johnstone. Yet with Kenny Shiels at the helm, we always knew we had a chance – he seemed to save his best for these big occasions, and did the business yet again, with his side producing perhaps the most comfortable and composed performance of his reign.

Cillian Sheridan opened the scoring for Killie just before half-time after a mix-up between Adam Matthews and Efe Ambrose, and then Liam Kelly secured the win with a powerful penalty just after the hour mark. I opted for Kelly’s goal because of the raw emotion attached to it. Kelly had tragically lost his father in the aftermath of the League Cup final against the same opposition seven months earlier, and celebrated the goal by pointing to the sky. Even the most hardened of Celtic fans would have found it hard to grudge him that moment.


2013/14 – Kris Boyd. Hibs 0-1 Kilmarnock (10/05/14)

No words required.


Craig Anderson is Twitter’s most entertain pedant and must be followed. In addition to his duties on the Terrace Podcast he is more better known for being the legendary SPLStats.

To hear discussion on Budgement Day, Danny Lennon’s departure, Hibs v Everyone (including themselves) and Motherwell sneaking second then listen to Monday’s podcast.