New Kilmarnock boss Lee Clark is looking to keep his side up in the SPL – kicking off with a victory over Dundee.
The 43-year-old Geordie has taken up the hot-seat departed recently by Gary Locke following a narrow 1-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Hamilton Accies.
Clark, who has previous managerial experience at Huddersfield, Birmingham City and Blackpool, says the main objective is to keep Killie up and build from there – but he sees a lot of positives at the club.
A vital 2-0 success at Motherwell with superb second-half goals from Greg Kiltie and Craig Slater saw the Rugby Park side leapfrog the Steelmen, whose mini-recovery looks over as they’ve gone six league games without a win and now find themselves back in the relegation play-off spot. But Killie are just a point ahead of them and have played a game more, so Clark’s troops will be out to impress the new gaffer when they take on a Dundee side that have won three of their last six.
In-form Kane Hemmings struck twice as the Dark Blues beat St. Johnstone at Dens Park last time out to leapfrog the Perth side up to fifth, so they won’t roll over for Kilmarnock and Clark can expect a baptism of fire from a side that romped to a 4-0 win in their last trip to Rugby Park.
Killie, however, turned the tables with a surprise 2-1 win at Dens Park back in October but you can throw the form book out of the window for this one.
It’s all about how Kilmarnock react to having their new manager in the dressing room and if he can inspire them to run their legs off for him. It’s a clean slate for all the players in the side and they’ll be vying for positions in the side all week with changes possible. They’ve got a chance to show the gaffer what they can do when they take on Rangers in a Scottish Cup replay in mid-week, which Clark will watch from the stand.
He’s in the dug-out for Saturday’s game and will shake hands with his opposite number Paul Hartley – but the pleasantries will end there with both sides keen to get a maximum return from the fixture.
Clark’s first job will be to address a defence that has leaked 48 goals so far this season – the worst record in the SPL. They aren’t finding the target with much regularity either, Northern Irish hit-man Josh Magennis bagging ten of just 29 that they’ve put away this term, so they’re fairly reliant on the big striker getting the better of his markers.
The Dark Blues will, of course, be aware of the new manager effect and be prepared for the early onslaught that should ensure from the hosts with a positive atmosphere generated by the fans as they welcome the new manager.
It’s how they get to grips with the atmosphere that could have a real bearing on the outcome in this one, and I fancy that we could be looking at a draw. Dundee have already drawn 9 of their 25 games this season for the highest number in the Division and you could be looking at more of the same in this one.
Kilmarnock Recent Form LDWLLW
Dundee Recent Form LWWLDW
24/10/2015 Dundee 1 Kilmarnock 2
01/08/2015 Kilmarnock 0 Dundee 4
21/01/2015 Dundee 1 Kilmarnock 0
01/11/2014 Kilmarnock 1 Dundee 3
09/08/2014 Dundee 1 Kilmarnock 1
Kilmarnock (4-4-2) – MacDonald, Hodson, Balatoni, Findlay, Smith, Dicker, Slater, McKenzie, Kiltie, Obadeyi, Magennis.
Dundee (4-4-2)- Bain, McGinn, O'Dea, Konrad, Holt, Ross, McGowan, Harkins, Loy, Hemmings, Stewart.
Kilmarnock: Johnston (inj), Westlake (inj), O’Hara (inj), Hamill (inj), Smith (inj), Higginbotham (susp).
Dundee: McPake (inj).