Locke resigns as Kilmarnock boss

 Posted by at 6:04 AM
Jan 312016
Gary Locke took Hearts to the 2013 League Cup final, where they were beaten by St Mirren

Gary Locke has resigned as manager of Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock and will be replaced on an interim basis by Lee McCulloch.

Locke stood down after the 1-0 home defeat by Hamilton at Rugby Park.

The result leaves Kilmarnock second-bottom, having played more games than the three teams around them.

Locke, 40, was put in temporary charge in February 2015 and was made permanent manager in April. He won 11 of his 43 games in charge.

Kilmarnock said in a statement:“The Board of Directors would like to thank Gary for his time with the club and wish him every success in the future.”

Former Scotland international McCulloch joined Kilmarnock as a player-coach in July. He has only played on one occasion, starting the 4-0 home defeat by Ross County on 22 August.

It is his first managerial appointment and he is to be assisted by Peter Leven and Alan Robertson.

Kilmarnock play Rangers in a Scottish Cup fifth-round tie at Ibrox on 6 February.

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Arsenal 2-1 Burnley

 Posted by at 1:06 AM
Jan 312016
Alexis Sanchez scored on his first start since November

Arsenal maintained hopes of winning the FA Cup for a third season in a row as Alexis Sanchez’s goal carried them past Burnley and into round five.

The Premier League side led when Calum Chambers superbly curled in from 18 yards with the outside of his foot.

Burnley hit back as Sam Vokes headed in Tendayi Darikwa’s cross and Andre Gray came close after the break, Alex Iwobi making a timely interception.

Sanchez – making his first start since November – finished coolly to win it.

The Chile international – who has made just one substitute appearance since suffering a hamstring injury – was lively throughout and turned in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross after Darikwa was dispossessed in midfield.

There can be no doubt the holders deserved a place in Sunday’s draw as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and chances, though Burnley created a nervy finish.

The impressive Gray caught sight of goal late on but could not get meaningful power in his shot and as the visitors threw bodies forward, substitute Theo Walcott missed a glorious chance to add a third on the break as he failed to round Tom Heaton.

History beckons for Gunners

Arsenal’s match programme featured the FA Cup trophy on the front cover along with the words “To have and to hold”.

They move a step closer to emulating the Blackburn Rovers side of 1886 by winning a third FA Cup in a row, though this was far from vintage.

They made nine changes to the side beaten by Chelsea last weekend but still fired 23 shots at the Burnley goal as Arsene Wenger maintained his record of only losing to lower-league opposition once in 41 FA Cup ties.

Solid appearances from the likes of Chambers and Iwobi show he has a squad capable of maintaining a challenge in this competition but the anxious moments – particularly with the ball in the air in their box – will continue prompt some concern.

A solid debut

Mohamed Elneny saw more of the ball than any other player – with 100 touches – on his first outing since joining for £5m from Basel earlier this month.

His completion of 96% of his passes was impressive but as a deep midfielder, he often found himself with plenty of time on the ball, meaning there will be tougher tests to come.

Little of his work took place in either penalty area, a stark contrast to Sanchez.

The Chile international didn’t break stride to slam home his goal, created the opener for Chambers and looked lively throughout. His return could be crucial ahead of a key February when Arsenal play the likes of leaders Leicester, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Clarets going up?

Like Arsenal, Burnley sit third in their respective table and their offering at the Emirates shows they the grit needed to win promotion back to the top tier at the first time of asking.

Gray missed an early one-on-one chance and looked set to put his side 2-1 up after the re-start but for Iwobi’s last-ditch intervention.

His manager Sean Dyche was bold in making just two changes with a league fixture at Ipswich to come on Tuesday.

But the Clarets looked cohesive and more finishing of the quality Vokes displayed could have asked tough questions of the Premier League side.

They undoubtedly look capable of staying the pace in the second tier.

More to follow.

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Hibernian 2-1 St Johnstone

 Posted by at 12:52 AM
Jan 312016
McGinn (right) scored with a second-half shot

A John McGinn strike 16 minutes from time put Hibs into the League Cup final after a terrific tussle with St Johnstone at Tynecastle.

Hibs had taken the lead just before the half hour with a controversial penalty duly put away by Jason Cummings.

Tommy Wright’s team responded four minutes later when Joe Shaughnessy headed an equaliser.

McGinn’s low drive from distance settled the game and set up a meeting with either Celtic or Ross County.

It was lead the Edinburgh side deserved and maintained thanks to a fine late save by Mark Oxley from another Shaughnessy header.

This was a semi-final played out in biting cold, rain and occasional snow. For all that, it was an absorbing clash of Championship versus Premiership, of a Hibs side on a great run and a St Johnstone side who came into this on a poor run of no wins from their previous six games.

Hibs were without the injured Anthony Stokes – a minor back strain kept him out – but they went in front when Liam Henderson cut across Chris Millar, drawing a tentative challenge. There was contact, but how much contact was debatable.

Saints thought it was a minimal and protested vehemently when referee Steven McLean awarded the penalty. Cummings calmly rolled it in and Hibs were on their way.

Saints players were unhappy with the first-half penalty award

Their glee was brief, their advantage wiped out in quick order. When David Wotherspoon swung in a cross from the right, Shaughnessy angled a superb header into the top corner.

You could not say Hibs took control from there, but most of the clever football came from the Championship side and most of the big performers wore green instead of blue.

Across the midfield, the Edinburgh side were sharp and slick.

McGinn was excellent in an attacking sense and Dylan McGeouch was a rock behind them. Henderson played powerfully and Fraser Fyvie was decent also.

Saints have character, though. At the beginning of the second half they rattled Hibs’ crossbar from a Simon Lappin free-kick and never looked beaten even when McGinn rifled home to give Alan Stubbs’ team the lead again.

It was deserved, you have to say. Cummings and Chris Dagnall had gone close, as had Henderson. McGinn’s goal was coming and well-earned.

Hibs made more chances – Dagnall again, then McGinn’s delicious turn and run caused more trouble for the Saints defence.

The Perth side finished strongly, not decisively. Shaughnessy’s header was tipped away by Oxley, then an ineffective Michael O’Halloran drove over from a decent position.

Stubbs has worked wonders with this Hibs side since the dog days of relegation in 2014. Their world has turned since then.

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