The veteran striker has a knack of coming good in the big games and did so again last night, grabbing the all-important second goal of the game.
Whilst on Sunday he had a tendency to drop back into midfield, proving largely ineffective and wasteful at best, yesterday was a completely different story. It seems to be that when we dominate possession against lesser teams he struggles but when we have an even share of the ball against fairly well matched opposition he thrives. It’s not an attitude problem where he takes his foot off the gas against the so-called smaller teams – as his desire and work rate is there to be seen every week – I think it’s more to do with positional discipline.
When we are tasked with breaking down a stubborn defence, his need to be involved in the play sees him drift into the midfield. All this does is crowd the middle of the park in what is an already narrow shape given our lack of natural wingers and often results in him being dispossessed due to the lack of options in front of him – a symptom of his own decision to vacate that space.
From his odd appearance as a pundit he strikes me as having a good understanding of the game so whether this is an instruction from McCall or not is unclear. But Kenny has always relied on his movement on the shoulder of the last defender which is why it puzzles me as to why he has not relied on that more as he has matured instead of trying to influence the game from deeper positions.
It is no coincidence that his best games have come against the two Edinburgh sides this year. With Rangers sitting in more and relying on the counter attack as an attacking weapon, Kenny doesn’t have the opportunity to roam from his original position as the attacks have to be more crisp and precise. So when we give up possession like we did for long spells last night, this allows him to do what he does best: harrying, chasing lost causes and being an all-round nuisance for defenders.
With just nine goals this season it hasn’t been anywhere near prolific enough, but neither have any of our forwards – and the service hasn’t exactly been great has it? Of those nine goals though, two have come against Hearts and two have come against Hibs. Where against the less intense games he and Clark may have been guilty of squandering a hand full of clear cut chances, each of those goals have come in games where we haven’t has a barrel load of chances. The added pressure and knowledge that chances are going to be few and far between has seen a ruthless streak develop as his clinical finish last night showed.
However, at 35 years of age, it is visible that his legs aren’t always on the same wavelength as his footballing brain anymore, which is why it is even more important that he is efficient when expending his energy. Before last night’s game I felt it was crucial that he maintained as high a position as possible in order to occupy the Hibs centre backs. I thought the best way to do that would be to play Vuckic in behind him as that would ensure that he wasn’t being dragged back into the No10 position and would allow us to match up with their three in the middle of the park. But McCall stuck with Nicky Clark, and even though I think they’re too similar to work well as a duo going forward, they could not be faulted for their effort.
The number of flick-ons Miller won was ridiculous given the height advantage Fontaine and Hanlon had over him but when you have the stomach for the fight that Miller does, age nor physical limitations act as barriers.