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Kenny Shiels' outbursts could tarnish Kilmarnock's achievements this term, says Andy Walker

Hibernian - Andy Walker Posted 18th December 2012 view comments

Now that Celtic are beginning to open up a comfortable lead at the top of the SPL, the race for second place has been fascinating to watch.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle, St Johnstone and Aberdeen looked as though they had the consistency to be the best of the rest in recent weeks, but the truth is that second spot is very much up for grabs.

Shiels: the Kilmarnock boss has lashed out at officials this season

Shiels: the Kilmarnock boss has lashed out at officials this season

On Sunday, Kilmarnock entertain Hibernian at Rugby Park in a live SPL clash and both have the potential to finish as runners-up to champions-elect Celtic.

I saw Killie a few weeks ago at home to Queen of the South in the Scottish Cup and despite getting through to the next round, I thought they were unconvincing.

However, an excellent 2-0 away win against Aberdeen last week is an indication of how effective Kenny Shiels' team can be.

Brush

Last season, all the talk from Shiels surrounded his team and how attractive their football was to watch, but these days, you can't mention Shiels without wondering what his latest brush with refereeing officials was all about.

In Liam Kelly, Kilmarnock have a defensive midfield player of real quality, while Cilian Sheridan is a constant goal threat.

Andy Walker
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The Kilmarnock boss has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks and his behaviour on the touchline has earned him a ban.

But the Northern Irishman has now gone a step further by branding fourth official Andrew Dallas, son of former head of referees Hugh Dallas, as being manipulative and devious.

These are serious allegations to make against any referee and the only guarantee is that there's much more to come on this developing story.

And it's a great pity that events off the park are taking the gloss off what could be another memorable season for the Ayrshire men.

Winning the League Cup with a Hampden success over Celtic was a remarkable achievement and it's not beyond them to show the consistency required to net second place.

In Liam Kelly, they have a defensive midfield player of real quality, while Cilian Sheridan is a constant goal threat. Making the most of home advantage against Hibs is crucial if they are to start putting pressure on the clubs above them.

Habit

Hibs, though, are currently five points better off than Killie and under Pat Fenlon, the Easter Road men have surprised everyone this season.

Embarrassed and humiliated at the end of last season after losing 5-1 to Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final, it's been a breath of fresh air to note the positive reaction Fenlon has had from his players.

However, losing a two-goal lead at home to Motherwell last week was a shock to the system and judging from last season when losing became a habit, it's very easy to slip into that kind of run as well.

When they hit second spot, you could tell that Hibs players weren't used to the level of expectancy and have clearly struggled for the consistency required of a top team.

At the recent AGM, the board of directors were appealing for more supporters to come through the turnstiles to stave off the inevitable cuts in the playing budget.

Top scorer Leigh Griffiths is on loan from Wolves until the January transfer window and unless Hibs plan to do business, Griffiths will head back to Molineux.

My money is on a home win for this one.

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