Armstrong penalty sees off Hibs to lift Kilmarnock off bottom of table

Daniel Armstrong’s penalty was the difference as Kilmarnock beat Hibernian 1-0 at Rugby Park to move off the bottom of the Scottish Premiership table.

Referee David Dickinson had originally awarded a free-kick against Hibs defender Marijan Cabraja early in the second half but the decision was overruled after VAR ruled the contact to have taken place just inside the box.

Armstrong celebrated signing a new Kilmarnock contract this week by sending Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall the wrong way to give the home side the victory and end a run of three successive defeats.

Hibernian went close through Elias Melkersen, while Mykola Kukharevych had a goal disallowed for offside as they slipped to a sixth defeat in seven matches.

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes opted to ring the changes following his side’s 4-0 defeat to Dundee United on Wednesday with seven alterations to the starting line-up, including a change of goalkeeper with Sam Walker replacing Zach Hemming.

Hibs also came into the match on the back of a defeat in midweek and Lee Johnson made three changes, as Cabraja, Josh Campbell and Lewis Stevenson came in for Rocky Bushiri, Ewan Henderson and Demetri Mitchell.

Kilmarnock had the first attempt of the game in the 15th minute as Joe Wright headed over at the back post, before Rory McKenzie went closer with his headed attempt moments later from a threatening Daniel Armstrong cross.

Hibs started slowly but they thought they had gone in front in the 25th minute as Kukharevych slotted home but the offside flag went up against Melkersen in the build-up and that decision was backed up after a check by VAR.

With both teams short of form and confidence, there was little else to report in a poor quality first half as neither side was able to muster any clear chances.

The second half began in a more entertaining fashion, however, and Melkersen had a good chance in the 48th minute when he was played through by Campbell – but the Norwegian forward took too long and his right-footed shot was eventually blocked by Joe Wright.

The resulting Joe Newell corner found Paul Hanlon in plenty of space but the Hibernian centre-back could not get a clear contact on his header.

There was to be more drama moments later, as Cabraja tangled with Liam Polworth at the edge of the box and the referee David Dickinson awarded a free-kick.

However, following a lengthy delay, VAR ruled that the contact had taken place just inside the box and a penalty was awarded, with Armstrong coolly sending Marshall the wrong way from the spot to break the deadlock.

KILMARNOCK, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 12: Kilmarnock's Danny Armstrong scores a penalty to make it 1-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Hibernian at Rugby Park, on November 12, 2022, in Kilmarnock, Scotland. (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)
Image: Armstrong scored a penalty to win it against Hibs

Hibs looked to respond but they failed to create any clear opportunities until the 74th minute when Melkersen was unfortunate to see his spectacular overhead kick attempt fly just over the crossbar.

With the hosts happy to sit back and protect their lead, Hibs began coming forward and Henderson should have done better in the 82nd minute after he was well found by Ryan Porteous – but the midfielder skewed his left-footed attempt wide from an angle.

Despite sending several balls into the box, the visitors were unable to find an equaliser and substitute Harry McKirdy’s shot whistled inches over the bar with their final attempt in the last minute as Killie held on for a crucial three points.

What the manager’s said…

Hibernian boss Lee Johnson:

“I’m hurting. I’m not delusional. I hate not having that winning feeling and we all do, but when I look at the six losses, I think we should have more points from that.

“I’ve got to be careful what I say because people don’t want to hear that, they don’t want to hear any sort of excuse after a game, but we were much better than we were on Tuesday night against Ross County.

“Maintaining the belief within the squad is key. I think the break will act as a natural reset.

“I’m almost angry with myself for not using (Kevin) Nisbet in the last couple of games, although the astroturf might not have been great for him.

“But it didn’t matter if it was on glass today, we had to show a commitment and I think we did, I don’t think that could be thrown at us, but it’s the same pattern repeating.

“Dominate the game, dominate the final third, and then fail to execute.”

Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes:

“I was just grateful that we had the game today, to be honest, because going into the break after the Dundee United game would have been the worst hangover ever and the worst possible moment.

“We had the antidote today. This was the best curer, the win and thankfully we can go into the break now feeling a bit better about ourselves but knowing there’s work to be done when we come out of it.

“It’s been a tough couple of days since the Dundee United game. We spoke on Thursday and dealt with what we needed to deal with but we also tried to remind the players how hard we’ve worked to get here and the opportunity we have to
play in the Premiership.

“We had to have that life about us, that passion that was sadly missing in that first 45 minutes at Dundee United – but we also spoke about the need for concentration as well as belief and confidence in our work.

“Fair play to the players, I’m absolutely delighted. (There’s) lots to improve on but 1-0 victories in any team’s season are the bedrock of their season.

“If we can get six or seven of them a season, grinding things out, then they’re worth their weight in gold.”

What’s next?

The Scottish Premiership takes a break for the World Cup with Hibs returning to action away to Rangers on December 15, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 8pm.

Kilmarnock are away to Hearts on December 17. Kick-off 3pm.


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