Burns hot and cold

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Kilmarnock 1

Mitchell 24

Motherwell 1

Burns 7

Attendance: 6,608

WITH every revolution comes a time of backlash. Motherwell ended last season with a crescendo of praise for their achievement in stealing the runners-up place in the Premier Division from other more illustrious clubs. Just a few short months since the uprising, however, the provincial side is tumbling downwards.

No excuse can be made for their poor away record, but in yesterday's draw there were mitigating circumstances. The absence of eight first-team regulars due to a blight of injuries has forced the 36-year-old manager Alex McLeish back on to the field after a year away.

Experience doesn't guarantee security, and Tom Brown's impudent running and probing exposed McLeish's rusty joints. While experience revealed their naivete, the youthful Paul Lambert and Alex Burns combined to offer the away side's only real opportunity of the first period.

Lambert's authority in the midfield has developed into dictatorship this season, and Rob McKinnon might have thought him arrogant when he was dispossessed by his team-mate after seven minutes. Lambert showed poise as he ran with the ball, drawing defenders to him before releasing Burns to convert his pass from 12 yards.

Kilmarnock charged straight up the field, driven by the embarrassment of being beaten by a weakened opponent. John Hendry bent a superb effort to the angle of the uprights, and Paul Wright's header from the rebound was cleared from the line. Such fragility and providence cannot sustain teams for ever but Kilmarnock's equaliser was of a quality to defeat even the most effective defence.

Ally Mitchell collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and made space by stepping across his marker. He struck a wicked shot which arched over the crowded area into the net.

Scott Howie was subjected to a series of long-range efforts but Kilmarnock failed to beat him again. In the dying minutes Brown was sent clear but his shot, like the home side's chance of victory, simply ran out of steam.