Two Northern Ireland men met in Ayrshire on Saturday and whilst victory went to Steve Lomas’ St. Johnstone it was Kilmarnock’s Kenny Shiels who provided the real post-match talking points.
Ordered to the stand by referee Steve O’Reilly, Kenny had lasted all of seven minutes in the dug-out following two explosive incidents – the first in the fifth minute when central defender Manuel Pascali tackled Saints’ Nigel Hasselbaink near the touchline. The Italian defender certainly got the ball – but it was a two-footed tackle and after a lengthy delay and consultation with fourth official Andrew Dallas (son of former top referee, Hugh) O’Reilly produced a red card to the fury of both Shiels and the home fans.
The Killie Boss got a talking-to from the referee but was allowed to remain at his post – but it took all of two minutes for him to be ordered off the touchline.
“The fourth official made the decision - a young lad. Seemingly, he conveyed that information to the referee that it was a red card - everybody was amazed at it,” said Shiels
“You could see from the naked eye that he got the ball, then I got sent off for contesting two decisions. I didn’t use bad language. I speak candidly by telling the truth. Diplomacy isn’t my strongest point.
“Steve (Lomas) got in the fourth official’s ear and I’m not blaming him, but that can have an influence on a young boy. It was obvious it wasn’t a red and it’s disappointing that we’ve had two reds in our last two home games.”
With a man short so early in the game defeat seemed inevitable when Murray Davidson opened the scoring from a Gregory Tade lay-off – but the Rugby Park side played so well in the second-half and deservedly equalised on 81 minutes when Michael Nelson headed home a James Dayton free-kick.
Killie now looked the likelier but cruelly in the last minute a skillful run by Chris Millar created an opening for substitute Rowan Vine to slot home the winning goal.
“We deserved something from the game, but switched off for the winning goal - it’s so disappointing after being so dominant.”
Lomas did offer some words of sympathy for his fellow manager.
“I can understand that Kenny was frustrated after the sending off. However players know what it’s like these days and you can’t go into a two-footed challenge. Five years ago he would have got away with it,” he said.
“It was a superb win for us, but I must pay Kilmarnock credit for continuing to play two up front and putting us under pressure. At 1-1 we hadn’t killed the game off and I thought there was only going to be one winner – we might even have been lucky to get a point.”
The win sees St. Johnstone move into fourth position in the SPL, just two points adrift of Celtic.