THIS was a first positive step from Kilmarnock towards their rehabilitation. Relegated out of the Premiership amid acrimony and recriminations, Tommy Wright’s new-look team got their Premier Sports Cup campaign off to a winning start.

Lowland League runners-up East Kilbride proved to be obdurate hosts but once Fraser Murray had put Kilmarnock in front early in the second half there was only going to be one winner.

Jason Naismith added a second goal to remove any element of doubt over the outcome, the two goalscorers among the best players on the pitch.

Wright is not one to ever radiate beaming positivity but he cut a contented figure as he assessed his team’s maiden competitive showing. The first 15 minutes were a bit helter-skelter, the ball was always popping about,” said the Northern Irishman.

“But once we settled in and moved the ball, it was a good professional performance. These games can be really tricky, particularly with so many new players in the team. But we should control the game and we did control it.”

For East Kilbride boss Stevie Aitken, any disappointment at the result was tempered by the fact that his team had remained competitive throughout and that a crowd of around 270 fans had been there to see it.

“I was really pleased how the boys went about it, playing a team just out the Premiership and with ambitions to go straight back up,” said Aitken who remained hopeful that Tuesday’s game with Morton would go ahead.

“Kilmarnock have a strong squad and an experienced manager so it was always going to be a tough day for us.” 

Wright has not stinted so far in his summer rebuild following the team’s relegation from the Premiership last season. Seventeen players have so far been shipped out the door with 14 arriving to replace them and the manager still keen to add a couple more.

Of the starting line-up that succumbed to Dundee in the second leg of the relegation play-offs, only two – Chris Burke and Brandon Haunstrup – started this one.

It was perhaps no surprise, then, that with the Kilmarnock players still in the getting-to-know-you phase, they took a bit of time to get up to full speed. They had most of the chances of a staccato first period, with Innes Cameron unfortunate to see his header bang against the crossbar and Burke drawing a decent save from Connor Brennan in the Kilby goal.

The home side seemed content to mostly soak up the pressure and thwart their Championship rivals but they did create one excellent chance before the break, Neil McLaughlin’s thumping effort expertly parried by Zach Hemming in the Kilmarnock goal.

Buoyed by that let-off, the visitors forged in front early in the second half.

The goal owed much to the lightning pace of Fraser Murray, the former Hibs forward burning clear of the backtracking defence before applying an adroit finish. East Kilbride pleas of a foul in the build-up fell on deaf ears and the goal stood.

Cameron then spurned a golden opportunity to extend Kilmarnock’s advantage after an error from Jamie Stevenson but the visitors were knocking on the door and a decisive second goal duly arrived.

Murray was denied a near identical strike by the diligence of Gregg Wylde on the goal line, but from the resultant corner Naismith grabbed his first Kilmarnock goal at the second attempt after Wylde had blocked his first effort.

Kilby were visibly tiring and a slack pass from captain Chris Millar ought to have been punished by Dan Armstrong whose curled effort instead struck the post. But two goals proved to be enough.