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 Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 17:01 GMT
De Vries sinks Killie
Sean Dillon beats Hearts defender Alan Maybury (left) to the ball.
Hearts edged out Killie in a drab encounter
Kilmarnock 0-1 Hearts

Mark de Vries was gifted his ninth goal of the season to keep Hearts' European ambitions on course at Kilmarnock.

The two teams played out a drab, goalless first period at Rugby Park.

But De Vries' ninth goal of the season lifted the Tynecastle side level on points with Dunfermline.

After a lively start to the game the home side went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock after just two minutes.

Kris Boyd sprung the offside trap to run onto a perfectly-weighted through ball from Peter Canero, but with just Roddy McKenzie to beat he drilled his right-foot shot just past the upright.

Hearts, who were weakened by injuries to key players, found it difficult to get their passing game together early on.

In contrast Killie's tricky young winger Stephen Murray was causing the Edinburgh side problems down the left channel.

Killie keeper Gordon Marshall beats Andy Kirk to a high ball
Marshall's blunder gifted de Vries the winning goal
But Hearts squandered their first chance of the game in the 11th minute when Andy Kirk was granted a free header from Jean Louis Valois' corner, but headed wide from five yards.

Hearts started to get into the game and they were presented with a half-chance in the 16th minute.

Scotland defender Steven Pressley's free-kick fell nicely to Kevin McKenna on the edge of the box, but he drove his right-foot shot straight at Greg Shields.

Then Kirk squandered another great chance in the 21st minute for Hearts.

Queifio found the young striker in the centre and he had time to take the ball on but instead slashed his right-foot volley wide of the target.

Kilmarnock will wonder how they failed to go in front in the 32nd minute after a tricky run from Canero.

He skipped between two challenges and pulled the ball across the face of goal but Paul Di Giacomo and Boyd failed to get enough on the ball and McKenzie dived to smother.

Murray summed up the game when he again got away from Alan Maybury and ran infield but slashed his right-foot shot closer to the corner flag than the net.

Severin then blazed over from 25 yards but the game was crying out for some quality to lift the game out of its mediocrity.

Hearts' Wilfred Oueifio (left) goes head-to-head with Peter Canero.
Hearts were hindered by injuries to key players
In the dying seconds of the half, Kirk missed another glorious chance when the ball broke to him just inside the box but he fired wide with the goal at his mercy.

But, just two minutes after the re-start, a mistake by Gordon Marshall gifted the visitors a much-needed breakthrough.

De Vries capitalised on a slip by Dindeleux and he cut inside to fire low at goal.

But Marshall let the ball squirm through his hands and over the line.

Killie fought hard to get back into the game and Canero should have levelled the scores in the 65th minute.

Alan Mahood slid the ball into the youngster's path, but with just McKenzie to beat he drilled his shot straight at him.

De Vries almost killed off the game in the 75th minute when he controlled Maybury's ball and pulled off a first time shot from 25 yards which looked destined for the bottom corner.

But Marshall made amends for his earlier blunder to save to his right.

Kilmarnock: Marshall, Fowler (Locke 73), Dindeleux, Shields, Dillon, Canero, Fulton, Mahood, Murray (Dargo 56), Boyd, Di Giacomo (McSwegan 55).

Subs Not Used: Meldrum, Hay.

Booked: Mahood.

Hearts: McKenzie, Maybury, Pressley (Webster 57), McKenna, McCann, Queifio, Severin, MacFarlane, Valois (McMullan 83), Kirk (Simmons 69), de Vries.

Subs Not Used: Gordon, Weir.

Booked: Valois.

Attendance: 6,511

Referee: Kevin Toner.

The SPL season gets under way

Weekend games

Links to more Scot Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

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