Killie defeat increases pressure on Hibs boss Heckingbottom
PSecond-half goals from Liam Miller and Mohamed El Makrini earned Kilmarnock a 2-0 Ladbrokes Premiership win which turned up the heat on Hibernian boss Paul Heckingbottom.
Angelo Alessio’s name rang round Rugby Park as his Kilmarnock side made it four games unbeaten, but the only chants from the visiting fans were for Heckingbottom to go as the visitors’ miserable run continued.
Hibs have only won one of their last 10 league games, but in contrast Alessio seems to have turned round Kilmarnock’s fortunes following their embarrassing exit to Welsh part-time outfit Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Europa League.
Killie have won three of their last four games and Alessio, who replaced Steve Clarke in the summer, is winning over the supporters as he looks to match the top-six finishes of the last two campaigns.
Hibs’ last outing was a woeful 3-0 defeat to Motherwell, after which Heckingbottom branded his side “soft”.
He rang the changes from that inept display, with deadline-day signing Jason Naismith coming in and Melker Hallberg making his first start. Josh Vela also came in, as did Ryan Porteous, who was making his first appearance since suffering a knee injury in January.
Hibs started on the front foot, with Flo Kamberi firing over from Naismith’s cut-back.
Then Daryl Horgan cut in from the right flank and unleashed a left-footed shot from 22 yards that Laurentiu Branescu managed to get a fingertip to to turn over the crossbar.
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Branescu then pulled off another impressive stop to deny Stevie Mallan.
After Scott Allan had been upended just outside the area, Mallan stepped up to take the free-kick and his curling effort was turned on to the crossbar and behind by Branescu.
Kilmarnock threatened before the interval when Rory McKenzie exchanged passes with Miller before his shot was deflected over.
From the resulting corner McKenzie swung in a cross that Dario Del Fabro should have headed home but he put his attempt wide.
However, the deadlock was broken 11 minutes into the second half as Kilmarnock edged ahead through Miller.
Scotland full-back Stephen O’Donnell played a ball over the top and Miller raced in on goal, drew Ofir Marciano off his line and then produced a composed finish as he slotted under the Hibs goalkeeper.
Hibs thought they had drawn level moments later when Hallberg had the ball in the net but it was rightly disallowed for a foul by Kamberi on Stuart Findlay, back in the starting line-up after injury, in the build-up.
Kilmarnock had a huge shout for a penalty when Miller tumbled under pressure from Naismith but referee Kevin Clancy waved away their appeals.
But they doubled their advantage with 11 minutes remaining as McKenzie and Alan Power combined to set up El Makrini and he drilled home a shot to secure the three points.