Kilmarnock consign Ross County to relegation play-off with win at Rugby Park
Kilmarnock beat Ross County 3-1 at Rugby Park to secure their their cinch Premiership survival and consign their opponents to a relegation play-off against Partick Thistle.
The Ayrshire side knew a point would be enough to keep them ahead of the Staggies and out of the bottom two, but they made it a final day to enjoy for their supporters as goals from Brad Lyons, Daniel Armstrong and Kyle Vassell secured a well-deserved victory.
County gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Yan Dhanda reduced their arrears to 2-1 just after the hour mark but they were unable to enough to get out of 11th place and they must now overcome free-scoring Partick over two legs if they are to remain in the top flight for a fifth consecutive season.
Killie manager Derek McInnes selected the same team that started Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Dundee United.
County boss Malky Mackay made three changes to the team that kicked off the 3-3 draw at home to St Johnstone as David Cancola, Alex Iacovitti and Alex Samuel replaced Victor Loturi, Dylan Smith and Simon Murray.
After a frenetic opening to proceedings, County had the first notable sight of goal in the 13th minute when Iacovitti headed over from Jack Baldwin’s long throw.
Killie were generally enjoying the bulk of the possession but they had to wait until the 29th minute for their first proper chance when Christian Doidge saw a powerful header tipped over by Ross Laidlaw from a Liam Polworth cross.
The hosts had been knocking on the door and they took the lead in the 36th minute when midfielder Lyons got himself free at the near post to steer home Armstrong’s corner for his first goal since joining Kilmarnock almost two years ago.
Nohan Kenneh fired a shot just wide from the edge of the box four minutes before the break as County tried to find a response
The Staggies made a change for the start of the second half as Jordan White, who had suffered a head knock in the first half, was replaced by Murray.
Killie extended their lead within four minutes of the restart.
Armstrong was tripped by Iacovitti as he tried to cut into the box from the right and a free-kick was initially awarded. Following a VAR check, it was established that the foul had taken place inside the area and a penalty was given.
Armstrong stepped up to net from the spot, sparking chants of “we are staying up” from the home support.
County got themselves back into it, however, with a penalty of their own in the 62nd minute as Dhanda fired high into the net from the spot after Ash Taylor was deemed to have pulled Keith Watson in the box following another VAR review.
Dhanda then spurned a chance to equalise three minutes later when he blazed over after being picked out by a Randall cross.
But Killie were able to breathe easily in the 78th minute when Vassell headed the rebound in off the underside of the bar after he had two consecutive shots charged down in the box by County defenders.