Clarke cautious despite top spot

Steve Clarke has played down the importance of his Kilmarnock side having taken top spot in the Scottish Premiership by virtue of a 2-0 win over Livingston.

Greg Stewart scored both goals as Killie took the honours at Rugby Park on Wednesday evening, which meant that they took over at the top as both Celtic and Rangers slipped up.

However, Clarke refused to get carried away by such a lofty position, especially with a meeting with Celtic next on the agenda on Saturday.

He told reporters after the win over Livi: "Listen, it's nice for the supporters – they'll have enjoyed the night and looking at the league table, but for us it's just another three points.

"(The players will) look at the table and realise that if you work hard and are a good group of players you'll pick up points in this league.

"And if you pick up enough points then sometimes you get quite close to the summit, but there's nobody getting carried away. We've got an awful lot of work to do.

"At the end of the season we can tally up the points and see who's where and decide if it's been a good season or not.

"But, in December it's difficult to do that as there are so many games to come."

Killie are 10/1 to top the Scottish Premiership this season if Celtic are excluded, with the Rugby Park outfit 25/1 to lift the Scottish FA Cup, having last done so in 1997.

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Killie’s form thrills Clarke

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke thought his side could easily have beaten Hibernian more convincingly at Rugby Park on Saturday.

Eamonn Brophy scored twice and, after the match was interrupted twice because of floodlight failures, Greg Stewart made it 3-0.

The victory leaves Killie second in the Scottish Premiership table and they are 21/20 to win their next match against Livingston on Wednesday.

Hibs are winless in six games and are eighth before their midweek meeting with second-bottom St Mirren, a match Neil Lennon's team are 2/5 to win.

Clarke said after his side's comprehensive victory: "I thought we were good, especially in the first half. Neil Lennon came with a little bit of a different side but we got the early goal and that was crucial.

"In the second half, we invited them on a little bit. If we had been a little bit more clinical we could have had a bigger scoreline."

Kilmarnock have only lost three of their 15 first league fixtures of the campaign and are one point behind leaders Celtic, who have two games in hand.

Meanwhile, Dundee remain rooted to the foot of the table with just one victory and five points from their first 14 matches this season.

Rodgers blasts Celtic defending

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said his team failed to master the basics as they fell to a defeat away at Kilmarnock.

Killie climb above Rodgers' team after this 2-1 win at Rugby Park, the winner coming in stoppage time.

Leigh Griffiths was on target for Celtic to give them a half-time lead but Chris Burke equalised for the home side with a long range effort just after the hour mark.

Both teams looked to have settled for a point but Burke's corner, deep into added time, was headed home by Stuart Findlay to secure all three points for Killie and leave Celtic mid-table in the Scottish Premiership.

After sweeping all before them in domestic football the last two seasons, Celtic have begun their title defence in uncertain fashion.

After six league games they are sixth in the table with 10 points with two defeats already and they are six points behind leaders Hearts.

It left Rodgers a disappointed man after the latest defeat. He told Radio Scotland: "We had fairly good control of the game. There weren't a lot of chances either way.

"But we didn't do the basics well. From the first corner, we didn't come out well enough and protect the space. Chris Burke gets in on the right side.

"Then the second goal is just basic. It's a corner. You can see Kilmarnock didn't even want to take it. Chris Burke puts it in and we don't defend it strong enough. To lose the game is disappointing."

Celtic's next three games are all in different competitions. First they are in action in midweek when they travel to St Johnstone in the quarter-final of the Scottish League Cup.

Celtic are 2/5 to win with the Saints 11/2. Celtic are 10/11 to win the cup once again this season.

Then, next weekend, they are back in the Scottish Premiership at home to Aberdeen before they travel to Austria to take on SB Salzburg in the Europa League.

Celtic are 80/1 to win the Europa League with Arsenal 7/1.

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Killie expect Clarke to stay put

Kilmarnock majority shareholder Billy Bowie expects head coach Steve Clarke to remain at the club next season, having helped engineer a major upturn in fortunes.

Killie have lost just twice in 22 games in all competitions since the start of November, with Clarke having taken charge at Rugby Park a couple of weeks earlier.

That surge in form has seen Clarke linked with bigger clubs both in Scotland and south of the border, but Bowie is confident that the former Reading and West Brom boss is going nowhere.

He told the Daily Record: "Let's nip this in the bud. There's been a lot of speculation, but Steve signed a two-and-a-half year deal and as far as we're concerned he will be here next season.

"There seems to be all this talk as if he's definitely going here, there and everywhere in the summer, as if it's a done deal. Far from it.

"I understand people might be looking at the job he is doing, but we are trying to build something here and Steve is a huge part of it. He has never once mentioned anything about going anywhere and is completely focused on his job."

Killie, who won 1-0 at Rangers last time out, are back in action on Saturday 31st March, when they play host to Hamilton Academical.

The two sides met at Rugby Park in late August, when the visitors scored twice in the final 18 minutes to secure a share of the spoils.

Killie are 4/5 to win the game at the end of the month and are 15/2 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline, with the hosts 4/1 to win by a two-goal margin.

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