By Euan Wood
Kilmarnock secured a crucial bonus point after a 1-1 Premier Sports Cup draw with Greenock Morton and an inspired display from Middlesbrough loanee Zach Hemming.
An early first half strike put Morton ahead before a late Kilmarnock equaliser took the game to penalties. On-loan Middlesbrough goalkeeper Hemming saved three spot-kicks to earn Tommy Wright’s side a valuable bonus point in the home team’s first return to Rugby Park since the relegation play-offs last season.
Youngster Lewis McGregor netted his first senior goal for Morton before substitute Kyle Connell fired home the equaliser from close range. Kilmarnock now sit one point shy of Group G leaders Stranraer whilst Gus McPherson’s Morton side fall to the bottom of the table.
The hosts were denied the opener two minutes in with Jack Hamilton performing heroics in the Morton goal. Rory McKenzie and Fraser Murray’s quick play left Murray in acres of space at the edge of the box. The winger’s curling effort was destined for the top corner before being superbly tipped over the bar by Hamilton.
The visitors would open the scoring minutes later against the run of play. The well-worked counter-attack fell kindly to McGregor on the left. The academy prospect cut inside and put his effort in off the far post to earn his first senior goal.
16' l WHAT A MOMENT FOR LEWIS MCGREGOR! pic.twitter.com/vLlWEHCUal
— Greenock Morton (@Morton_FC) July 20, 2021
Morton almost doubled their advantage minutes into the second half. A misplaced pass was easily intercepted by Robbie Muirhead, but the striker’s long -range effort was brilliantly stopped by Hemming.
The crossbar would deny Killie the equaliser on the hour mark. Fraser Murray was left unmarked and from over 30 yards out, the former Hibs player striking towards goal, but his effort rattled the woodwork.
The hosts would salvage a point in the 90th minute. Murray’s deep cross was put across the face of goal and substitute Connell coolly finished from close range. Wright’s side would secure the extra point with a 5-3 win on penalties. Here are the three things we learned.
Hemming the Hero
Middlesbrough loanee Hemming would be the cup hero as the impressive shot stopper saved three penalties to earn the hosts a valuable bonus point. With an exceptional performance throughout, he looks to be an exciting addition in what is a crucial Championship season for Killie.
Cup hopes alive
Kilmarnock’s cup hopes looked in danger as they trailed 1-0 in the 90th minute, especially after being awarded a 3-0 defeat for fielding an ineligible player against East Kilbride. The Ayrshire side now sit one point behind leaders Stranraer with the sides set to meet this weekend in a crucial match for progression into the next round.
Murray’s the catalyst
Midfielder Murray looks to be a key piece of business for Kilmarnock, with the 22-year-old creating the majority of the home chances and also playing a key role in the late equaliser. The crossbar would sadly deny the winger his well-deserved goal that would’ve easily have been goal of the tournament.
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