Last weekend’s goalless Old Firm derby was such a damp squib that this game not only gave Rangers a chance to move top of the SPL for the first time since November but the opportunity to make a statement of intent about the title race.
For the first half an hour, during which Kilmarnock took a surprising lead through Jamie Hamill, it seemed that the statement might be something like “we surrender”.
Then a blitz of three goals in six minutes, one for Kris Boyd and two for Kenny Miller, altered that to “watch out, here we come”, although a threatened rout did not materialise. While Rangers are doing enough to capitalise on Celtic’s recent wobbles, they are some way from being a dominant force.
“I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t add to the three goals given the second-half pressure,” their manager, Walter Smith, said. “But after going a goal down, we’re glad to win.” Hammill’s opener came in the 17th minute after Gavin Skelton passed to Garry Hay, whose low cross towardsthe goalmouth required just a tap-in.
Rangers went close to leveling five minutes later when a ball from John Fleck found Sasa Papac near to goal but the defender’s flick with his heel, and with his back to goal, went wide. Rangers were further frustrated soon afterwards when Boyd was booked for diving on the edge of the area instead of being awarded the penalty that he was unfairly seeking.
His displeasure did not last long. Pedro Mendes’ corner from the left floated to the back post, where Madjid Bougherra headed it down for Boyd to smack it through a crowd of bodies for parity. It was Boyd’s 24th goal of the season, and his fourth of the campaign against Killie, his old club.
Miller then added two goals in two minutes, both of them rewards for surges into the penalty box. First he ran on to Boyd’s knock-on, chesting the ball under control before slamming a low effort beyond Alan Combe.
For his second, he collected a dainty pass from Mendes, dashed forward a few steps and then unleashed his unstoppable shot.