Kilmarnock’s 28-year stint in the Scottish Premiership is over as Dundee are promoted to the division, winning the Scottish Premiership play-off final 4-2 on aggregate following a 2-1 second leg win at Rugby Park.
Danny Mullen opened the scoring on the break from a Kilmarnock corner before Lee Ashcroft added a second against his former club. Kyle Lafferty got one back for the home side after half-time. Dundee held a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at Dens Park and a repeat at Rugby Park seals a return to Scotland’s top flight for the Tayside team.
It took all of seven minutes for Dundee to double their advantage on aggregate. Charlie Adam’s clearance from a corner put the away side on the counter attack, Paul McMullan driving at the defence with plenty of time before slotting in Mullen, the Dens Park striker doing well to calmly slot past Kilmarnock keeper Colin Doyle.
They were all but out of sight four minutes in an ironic twist of fate. Ashcroft’s last game for Kilmarnock came in this fixture five years ago against Falkirk, helping the Rugby Park club survive. This time he was sending them down, heading home a Paul McGowan corner for his ninth goal of the season to put Dundee on the cusp of promotion.
Manager James McPake has often stated his ambition to take Dundee back to the league they were relegated from in 2019. They looked like the Premiership side against a deflated Kilmarnock who were all out of ideas.
Manager Tommy Wright swapped left-back Brandon Haunstrup for striker Danny Whitehall before half-time as a desperate salvage operation was initiated, Chris Burke firing the first Kilmarnock chance wide from close-range. Jordan McGhee meanwhile hit the bar from a McMullan cross as Dundee aimed to put the tie beyond reasonable doubt.
500 home fans returned to Rugby Park for the first time in 14 months but ended up booing their team down the tunnel at half-time as relegation loomed. Kilmarnock offered little resistance to their fate, Whitehall’s header straight at Dundee goalkeeper Adam Legzdins with Mitch Pinnock going wide via a deflection.
Legzdins gave away a penalty 20 minutes from time as he clattered Rory McKenzie in the box, Lafferty blasting it home. Kilmarnock needed another two for extra-time and three for the win, Alan Power firing a speculative effort over the bar.
Dundee held on as they replace Kilmarnock in the Premiership as Scottish football for the 2020/21 season comes to a close. Here are three things we learned.
Emptied the tank
We could list off the star performers for Dundee but that would be too difficult. Over the two legs, McPake’s side ran themselves into the ground and their reward is rightly Premiership football for next season. Dundee have plenty of Premiership quality in their squad and should be a competitive side in the top-flight next season.
Two goals in the opening period done the damage. Kilmarnock had a disastrous first half and their improved second matter little as the end result is still the same. With more than half the squad out-of-contract, a major rebuild looms.
Only Aberdeen, Celtic and Motherwell held a longer stint in the Premiership than Kilmarnock, but that is no longer the case. The Rugby Park club have pulled off great escapes more than once, but considering it was only a couple of seasons ago they finished third under Steve Clarke, they’ll ponder what’s gone wrong.
NTOF now offers a YouTube channel featuring exclusive interviews, post-match discussion, in-depth debate, and much more – LIKE and SUBSCRIBE and don’t miss any of our videos.