KEVIN VAN VEEN is now rubbing shoulders with some pretty illustrious company. The Motherwell striker put on another sparkling show at Fir Park on Saturday to help his side see off Kilmarnock, hitting his 25th goal of the season in the process.

After the game, his manager Stuart Kettlewell endorsed him as his player of the year, and there is no doubt that he is now worthy of being in that conversation alongside the likes of Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi.

He has also entered rarefied air in the eyes of the Motherwell support, who unfurled a banner prior to Saturday’s 2-0 victory proclaiming him as their King. Perhaps more telling though was the instant buzz that zipped around the ground whenever the mercurial Dutchman took possession of the ball.

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It is the same hum of expectation that hasn’t been heard around Fir Park since the latter days of Louis Moult’s time at the club, and further back to when James McFadden burst onto the scene. Fans now expect him to routinely produce the extraordinary, and what’s more, opposition defenders do too.

Little wonder when he produces moments like his late goal at the weekend. His first touch to take a long clearance down from Liam Kelly and ‘send the Killie defender to Tesco’, as he was later said to have put it in one of the Fir Park lounges, was bordering on the obscene.

It has become cliché to say that if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo produced such a moment people would be talking about it a lot more, but Van Veen can take comfort in the fact that his opponents have certainly taken notice of his abilities.

According to teammate Paul McGinn, the Motherwell players can sense fear in the opposition defenders before they have even taken to the pitch, and both Taylor and Joe Wright would probably back up that theory just as soon as they have untangled their legs.

“It’s unbelievable to get 25 goals, he could’ve got a few more,” McGinn said.

“He’s just a real threat and defenders are probably scared even before they go out on the pitch. But he doesn’t score that many goals against me in training!

“He’s not slow either, he’s got that turn of pace, so you have to give him that respect. He’ll just twist you one way then the other.

“Sometimes you wonder what he’s doing here, he’s that special at times. Then there’s other times you see him and you know why!

“While he’s playing like that, he’s a real joy.”

Van Veen’s goal eventually put the seal on a deserved three points for Kettlewell’s rejuvenated outfit, after Blair Spittal had put them ahead early on.

It might have been a more comfortable victory but for the efforts of Sam Walker in the Kilmarnock goal, and an incredible miss from McGinn himself as he somehow managed to hit the inside of the post from a couple of yards out before the ball miraculously rolled across the goalline and into Walker’s grateful grasp.

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“I just think I’m never going to score again – that’s my second sitter of the season off the same post!” he said.

“But luckily we won this game. I was just waiting for some wonder goal from Killie after I missed it.

“Even the mathematicians enjoyed that, it must’ve been a 90 degree one. How it’s gone on the line, I don’t know. I thought at least someone will tap it in, but it’s just the way it is for me in front of goal and I’m just glad we didn’t make a mess of it.

“I thought [the win] was well deserved. They had a spell after they missed a few chances.

“You’re under real pressure, they have an aerial threat and they put it in your box, but I thought we limited them to very little and we were a threat going the other way.”

As for Kilmarnock, the contribution of Walker was a small crumb of comfort for the 1825 fans who made the trip to Lanarkshire. Three of their last four fixtures are at home, and given their record at Rugby Park, that should also provide some solace.

Walker is mindful though that the venue will be inconsequential if the performances remain at the level shown at the weekend.

“It was an off day for us at a bad time, but once the disappointment wears off we have to come in fresh and ready to go on Monday,” Walker said.

“There’s no time to dwell, we’ve got four enormous games for the club starting on Saturday at home which should give us a positive lift and confidence. 

“It won’t take care of itself, we have to go out there and put on a performance which we didn’t do against Motherwell. 

“It was a sore one for us at the weekend, but there’s four more games to hopefully have a lot more positive feelings and swing it back in our direction, it’s still very much in our hands because if we win all four games then I’d like to think we’ll be safe. 

“It’s tight and tense for everyone, we have to be calm and get the job done. It takes bravery to have that calmness, going into big games trying not to think about the occasion. 

“There’s a responsibility on our side. That was a big disappointment on Saturday not giving the fans more to go away with. 

“The support was outstanding, hopefully we can give them more to shout about over the last four games and we can all celebrate together staying in the league.”