THIS game deserved more than rows of empty seats and expletives fired off with vigour towards the Rugby Park stands. In a stadium without fans, there was no one, not really, to savour a barnstorming 90 minutes that had it all in the Ayrshire sunshine. 

There was the flick of David Templeton’s boot, caressing the ball to his team-mates throughout; a red card for Eamon Brophy that sparked chaos and threatened to derail the match; it even had a desperate shout from the ambulance staff for the game to end as seven minutes of injury time ticked by. 

However, most importantly, it had three goals that should be more than just a footnote when the dust finally settles on this absorbing contest. 

Kilmarnock picked up all three points for just the second time this season, thanks to an early Greg Kiltie strike and Nicke Kabamba second-half finish as the hosts stood up to Hamilton Accies’ threat and an ill-fated Hakeem Odoffin equaliser. 

“There are characters in that changing room,” Killie boss Alex Dyer said. “We have some experienced heads and every single one of them dug in and worked hard.

HeraldScotland: Alex Dyer Alex Dyer

“It would have been easy for them to drop their heads, but they didn’t. They carried on, kept passing the ball and created a lot of chances. We could have won the game more comfortably.”

When asked about the red card, Dyer said: “Brophy didn’t go to hurt the lad and it’s just a little bit high.” 

Scoring goals and how to savour them dominated the pre-match talk with Hamilton apologetic for their hubris last week and Killie pleading for celebrations to continue amid rising cases across Scotland

Desperate to show their Aberdeen attrition wasn’t the norm, Killie flew out of the traps. Burke went the closest to opening the scoring in the early stages, an arrowed drive gobbled up by Fulton before the veteran pinged a free kick just wide. 

Hamilton didn’t know what had hit them and sure enough they were on the canvas when Killie pounced on Reegan Mimnaugh’s slack, hurried pass, drove forward with Millen, and found the lurking Kiltie. His finish gave Fulton no chance and he stuck to Killie’s word, celebrating by being mobbed by his team-mates. 

Seconds later, Eamon Brophy was forcing the keeper down to his right for a smart stop and it looked like the merciful thing to do was for Rice to throw in the towel. 

This is not, as they take great pride in reminding us, the Hamilton Accies way and in Templeton they have a player capable of extraordinary moments. Everything went through the former Rangers man and with a flick of his boot and a nod of Odoffin’s head, the visitors levelled a captivating contest.

Would the defender follow in kind and celebrate the goal with his team-mates? He darted away before any of the visitors could get a hold of him. 

It was all set up nicely for both to take turns on the front foot until Brophy’s sending off. The striker was dismissed in the 23rd minute for dangling his studs long enough to find Scott McMann’s shin. 

The break did the trick, however, and soon Killie scored again. 

A Kabamba header flashed across the goal, only to be cleared by Odoffin, but it was just a sign of things to come. He deservedly gave Dyer’s side the lead when he finished off an extraordinary few minutes of play which saw Burke denied twice by Fulton, before the striker scooped the ball home. For the record, he took a leaf out of Kiltie’s book in the aftermath. 

In a week dominated by talk of the virus, it was apt one of the teams found a way to protect their lead to hold on.  

“There are no excuses and we were prepared for the game,” Hamilton’s Rice said. “I told them before the game that we had every excuse in the world if we wanted them because of what had happened this week.

HeraldScotland: Brian Rice Brian Rice

“But there’s no excuse. The excuse is we weren’t good enough. I am angry because that was a chance for us to get two wins away from home.

“We’ve beat ourselves by doing something stupid and that’s my frustrations. What happened during the week had no bearing on the game.”