THE chat among the Kilmarnock fans soaking up the late summer sun in the beer garden of the Park Hotel on Saturday night almost exclusively centred upon referee Kevin Clancy, and his decision to award their team a penalty in the defeat to Ross County.

Clancy’s heart must have been in his mouth along with his whistle as the ball carried through to Stuart Findlay following the incident and the Killie defender headed it home. By blowing early, he had no choice but to disallow the goal, and there was an air of inevitability that Danny Armstrong would then fail to score the penalty.

Amid the hubbub across from Rugby Park though was the odd murmuring of discontent around the early season momentum that Derek McInnes’s men had been building abating slightly, and that defeats to Motherwell and now County in their last two games had rather stunted the good feeling around the club just a little.

READ MORE: Kilmarnock fume at Clancy after awarding them a penalty

Brad Lyons, who was the man pulled back by Josh Reid for the penalty incident, is conscious of that danger, and rather than look to blame Clancy for that, he is focused on correcting course following the international break.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Lyons said. “That’s the thing with VAR, sometimes people maybe don’t know the rules or whatever.

“It’s very frustrating because we scored a good goal from a set-piece, but the whistle had already been blown. But we can’t blame the referee. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. As players, we all made plenty on the pitch.

“Our performance wasn’t good enough. We need to look at ourselves first and foremost. Across the pitch, we just weren’t good enough, so we can’t blame the referee. That’s why we got beat.

“It’s hard to explain. We started really well at home by beating the two Old Firm clubs and we wanted to carry that momentum into the games against the other teams around us.

“Especially given this was the last game before an international break. Nobody wants to go into an international break on the back of a defeat and a performance like that. It’s a long two weeks.

“We prepared the same as we always do for the game. I don’t know why it was flat. I can’t really put my finger on it.

“The two Old Firm games, away to Hearts, we were brilliant. It’s very frustrating that we haven’t been able to carry that momentum on. Even the Motherwell game, I thought we played tremendously well in the first half.

“A defeat like this is a bit of a momentum killer. But we can’t let it affect us. We’ve set high standards for ourselves.”

As for County, they bounce into the break now knowing that is only the Old Firm who have conquered them in this very early part of the season, and they probably merited the win that Simon Murray’s well-taken header gave them over the piece.

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There was little in the way of free-flowing football, but there was heart and grit aplenty. Murray epitomised that with his boundless energy, though he perhaps isn’t built for such shifts in the Ayrshire sunshine.

“I seem to be melting every Saturday!” Murray said, who credits his good recent form to the strikers breathing down his neck for his jersey.

“It’s important to me as a striker to get goals and different types of goal but we’re playing as a team and we’re a strong unit, so whether it’s me who scores or Jordan White or anyone, the most important thing is winning the three points, especially away from home,
“There is competition up front. (Eamonn) Brophy is coming back from an injury, wee Al (Samuel) wasn’t here today, and then there is Jordan.

“They all want to play, I want to play, that’s infectious around the group. When you are looking over your shoulder and you’ve got Eamonn coming on to play, that just pushes me on to do better.

“Hopefully I’m doing the same to him, and that is what makes a good team.

“We all get on great, so as long as we keep pushing each other we’ll be fine.”