Kilmarnock 0-1 Motherwell: Wright receives rude awakening at Rugby Park

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IF he wasn’t already fully aware, then Tommy Wright now knows for certain the extent of the challenge awaiting him.

Back in the game after nine months out having accepted the chance to replace Alex Dyer at Kilmarnock, Wright watched his new team dominate Motherwell for most of the contest only to leave empty-handed for their efforts.

This was a sixth successive defeat for the Rugby Park side, a run that threatens to plunge them into what will likely be a tense and frenetic relegation scrap.

Only four points off bottom spot and a single point clear of Ross County in the play-off place, Wright’s next mission is to do what no other Premiership team has achieved so far this season by taking a league point or better away from Ibrox on Saturday.

What ought to give the Northern Irishman some succour amid the disappointment is the positive manner in which his team played for much of the encounter, even if a lack of cutting edge proved their undoing.

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“I think we bossed possession,” said Wright. “We worked on getting the ball into wide areas and creating overloads in those areas to get balls in the box. 

“We did that and had numerous attempts on goal but the quality of those attempts didn’t trouble the goalkeeper enough.

“But I have been encouraged since I came in with the quality in the squad. We will work with them. We know the areas we have to improve and they just have to persevere with it.”

The only goal of a scrappy game arrived after 71 minutes against the run of play. A quick Motherwell throw-in caught Kilmarnock napping, allowing Tony Watt to tee up Allan Campbell.

The midfielder’s shot struck the underside of the crossbar before nestling beyond Colin Doyle in the net.

Graham Alexander is not long in the manager’s door himself, this a third win from his seven games in charge.

The roar that went up from his players as referee Willie Collum sounded the full-time whistle showed how much this result meant to them as Motherwell significantly eased their own relegation concerns, even if Alexander was reluctant to concede as much.

“There is no breathing space at the minute,” he insisted. “We cannot allow ourselves to drop down a gear. We must keep our pedal to the floor. 

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“But it was a brilliant three points and I’m delighted with a clean sheet for the first time in a while. We were just striving to find that bit of quality and thankfully Allan Campbell found it.”

After nine months spent relaxing, going long walks and playing golf, you have to wonder why anyone would forego that lifestyle as Wright has done to sit in sub-zero temperatures trying to figure out how to turn around an ailing side’s fortunes.

Still, he would not have been entirely discouraged by what unfolded in front of him despite the result.

Kilmarnock were vastly improved from the lacklustre unit who had performed so poorly in Paisley at the weekend as they moved the ball about with confidence, always looking to attack.

It could have been the ideal start for Wright had Clevid Dikamona scored with an early header as he really ought to have.

With Gary Dicker restored to a central midfield berth, however, Kilmarnock continued to look the team more likely to make the breakthrough.

Rory McKenzie had a shot blocked, then picked out Chris Burke with a deep cross that the former Rangers winger couldn’t redirect on target.

Kilmarnock continued into the second half with purposeful intent, McKenzie fastening on to a deep cross but seeing his shot crowded out for a corner.

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Motherwell spent most of the evening on the back foot although Devante Cole did pass up two of the best chances of the match.

In the first half the striker fluffed a shot when it was begging to be lashed into the net, while a diving header after the break was somehow repelled by Doyle in the home goal.

The striker would have been a relieved man when Campbell put Motherwell in front. That was maybe rough on Kilmarnock but symptomatic of their current misfortune. Wright knows as much now.

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