IT isn’t every day that a manager will fume at a referee for awarding his team a penalty kick, but then, it isn’t every day that the award denies your team a goal.

Kevin Clancy awarded Kilmarnock a late spot kick as they trailed Ross County by Simon Murray’s opener, chalking off Stuart Findlay’s header that had already found the net in the process, and Danny Armstrong then missed the resultant penalty. Of course he did.

Here are the talking points from a controversial afternoon at Rugby Park…


The nicest thing to say about the quality in this game was that it was keenly contested, but just when you thought that flash points might be thin on the ground, referee Clancy waded in with his size 11s and his whistle.

There had already been a penalty incident that VAR had corrected before the late controversy, Clancy due credit for at least trying to liven up a brutal first half by awarding a spot kick after Murray had gone down under a challenge from Findlay.

There was a gasp around Rugby Park as Clancy immediately pointed to the spot, with Findlay appearing to have won the ball. In the end, VAR official Greg Aitken called his colleague over to the screen, and the technology backed up what just about everyone inside the stadium had felt with the naked eye.

Still, it made for a rare frisson of excitement amid 45 minutes where the players were mainly bludgeoning the ball, and one another.

How could Clancy top that? Well…


In truth, Killie had huffed and puffed in this one, struggling to create opportunities as they were asked to go on the offensive without striker Kyle Vassell – absent for the birth of his child - after the rope-a-dope performances that saw off both halves of the Old Firm here.

Still, they will feel they were due at least a share of the spoils, particularly as their late ‘equaliser’ was chalked off because one of their own players was fouled.

A free kick was swung into the area by Matty Kennedy, and Findlay rose to glance the header over Laidlaw and into the net. Celebrations were cut short though as it dawned on players and punters that Clancy was pointing to the spot after a pull by Josh Reid on Brad Lyons.

The ref blew before the ball hit the net, but even still, had he taken a beat before reaching for his whistle then the whole rigmarole could have been avoided. But hey, where’s the fun in that?

Instead, Clancy went trigger-happy and Derek McInnes went nuclear. There was a sense of inevitability that Armstrong would go on to miss the penalty for reasons of maximum mayhem.

“Kevin apologised and admitted he made a huge mistake,” McInnes said after he had cooled down a little.

“These guys are serious about their profession so he will not be feeling good about himself. 

“An apology is something. He said he wasn't expecting Findlay to score the goal but it is not his job to expect things.

“We should be expecting the referee to let the phase of play continue as we are told at every meeting. That is why VAR is supposed to be there.

“If he has blown before the ball has crossed the line that is a penalty, but the laws are wrong, and we should be able to reverse it.”


Like a rare flower somehow finding a way to poke its head through the astroturf and out into the sunshine, County playmaker Yan Dhanda offered uncommon flashes of beauty here among an otherwise largely dismal landscape.

It was no surprise that when the deadlock and the drudgery was finally broken eight minutes into the second half that he was the creator, curling a lovely free-kick delivery plum onto the dangerously puce-looking forehead of strawberry blonde striker Murray.

The forward did the rest, risking a stingy napper for the greater good, and guiding his header past Will Dennis.

County should have doubled their lead as Jack Baldwin – apparently handed a licence to roam wherever he may please from centre-back – popped up in the Killie area and laid the ball on a plate for Jordan White.

The big striker fluffed his lines though, doing well to pick out one of the hardy band of County followers sprinkled up the back of the Chadwick Stand with his finish.

It was a shame for Baldwin, whose impressive, all-action performance merited the tangible reward of an assist or a goal, but the visiting skipper will settle for returning to the Highlands with all three points tucked safely away.

Apart from being in the peculiar position of arguing that a referee was right to award a penalty against his team, it all left County boss Malky Mackay is in a positive frame of mind.

“It was a terrific win for us as this is a very difficult place to come – as Celtic and Rangers have found out recently,” Mackay said.

“Derek has put together an even better team this year and started the season very comfortably.

“We knew what we had to do to negate their strengths. I thought we did that and made a statement of intent.”