It was a tale of two sides that needed a win at Rugby Park, and a demonstration of which wanted it more as Kilmarnock earned all three points despite going down to 10 men within the opening 10 minutes of their clash with Ross County.

The hosts started the stronger of the two sides and worked the ball into some nice positions from kick-off, but their efforts were hampered significantly by an early sending off. After eight minutes, Harry Paton took a lofted ball perfectly in his stride which allowed him to ghost pass Gary Dicker effortlessly. He in turn picked out Ross Stewart who despite starting behind Stuart Findlay, made up significant ground to reach the ball in front of the reaching defender. Findlay could have little complaints to see red for a reckless lunge as Stewart bare down on goal. Kilmarnock boss Alex Dyer admitted after the match he didn’t fear the worst after the early red card, despite his side being at a man disadvantage for the majority of the game.

“{It was} an excellent win and a good performance,” admitted Dyer. “Down to 10 men the lads showed what they’re about. “I was quite calm to be honest {after the red card}. I know what the players can do and what they’re about we did it against Hamilton and got as good result. We do train that way because we have odd numbers now and again. I usually have 10 v 9 or whatever in training and that works, so they know what they need to do.”

The sending off appeared only to motivate the home side. Despite going a man down Dyer resisted the urge to take off either of his forwards and kept Eamond Brophy and Nicke Kabamba on the pitch. He was rewarded for the call just minutes after the red. Brophy glided into the box unmarked and directed a Mitchell Pinnock cross into the bottom corner to open his side’s account. An equaliser would come on the stroke of half time for the visitors despite their inability to trouble Danny Rodgers. Defender Grivosti rose well to head home from close distance after a rare spell of dominance for this side.

Dyer opted to replace his goal scorer at the break and the introduction of Zeno Rossi to the back line meant Dicker moved back into central midfield. This allowed Killie to regain some control of the ball. Broadfoot came close to cashing in on a period of possession in the County box but saw a goalbound effort tipped wide by Ross Doohan.

County in turn struggled to assert any dominance and scarcely troubled Rodgers. Instead it was the hosts who were able to fashion more chances on the counter-attack and they would be rewarded for their efforts 20 minutes before full-time, when Pinnock was judged to have been fouled in the area by Coll Donaldson. The industrious Kabamba send Doohan the wrong way to earn a deserved goal.

Kilmarnock could be forgiven for tiring as the clock ticked down and County did begin to inflict the dominance an extra-man should have guaranteed but it was all a case of too little too late. Jermaine Hylton should have scored when a corner fell to him at the back post but again Haunstrup was well placed to block. Rodgers then did superbly to reach an effort from Josh Reid that seemed bound for the top corner.

And a third would be added by substitute Chris Burke before the end of the game, cutting inside the winger worked space to unleash a top-class finish that evaded Doohan and found the top hand corner from 18 yards.

Stuart Kettlewell didn’t hold back after the game in lamenting the performance of his side.

“Unacceptable,” he bemoaned. “{We} lacked spirit, lacked heart, everything that I’m against in football if I’m brutally honest with you. There was nothing about it that I really enjoyed. “We probably get a false dawn when we go level, but in truth we weren’t great in the first half especially when Kilmarnock went down to 10 men and I think you see the way we start the second half is poor and not good enough. “I don’t think we laid a glove on Kilmarnock.”