Kilmarnock 0 PARS 3

IT was a tale of two Murrays at Rugby Park as Dunfermline moved to the brink of the Betfred Cup last 16 this evening.

Skipper Euan Murray, and midfield namesake Fraser, both headed home goals as the Pars saw off Premiership Kilmarnock to make it three wins from three in Group E.

Centre back Euan, who headed in two goals from Dom Thomas deliveries to beat Falkirk on Friday, was at it again 10 minutes after the break.

The on-loan Hibernian player then added goal number two, with his head this time from Declan McManus' cross, with 18 minutes to go before adding a quite magnificent second with a stunning 30-yard free-kick late on.

Although the hosts were shorn of a number of first team picks, Stevie Crawford's visitors stepped it up in the second half and thoroughly deserved what was a second successive victory in this competition on this ground.

Defensively, they were solid once more and can take a lot of confidence and momentum into Saturday's Championship opener with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with a place in the knockout stages all-but secured.

There had been doubts earlier this month that this tie would even take place, with the home side reporting six positive Covid-19 tests on the day of a home Premiership game with Motherwell.

That clash, on October 2, was postponed with the Killie first-team squad asked to self-isolate for 14 days, while they forfeited last Tuesday's match with Falkirk.

The Bairns, beaten by Dunfermline at East End on Friday, were awarded a 3-0 win as Alex Dyer opted not to play a youth side to ensure the fixture took place.

Tonight, however, he welcomed back Colin Doyle in goal, and experienced campaigners Chris Burke, Gary Dicker and Rory McKenzie into what was still, largely, a youthful line-up.

For the Pars, Crawford made three alterations to his starting eleven.

Cammy Gill came in for Owain Fon Williams in goal, while Iain Wilson - who, together with Thomas, was facing the club he left in the summer - and Kyle Turner also started.

Ryan Dow, like Fon Williams, dropped to the bench and, whilst Aaron Comrie missed out, there was a welcome spot amongst the substitutes for versatile defender Lewis Martin.

Dunfermline, with two wins from two, went into this match top of Group E and, despite a patchy record of seven defeats from their last 10 visits to this part of Ayrshire, they had won the last League Cup meeting of the clubs - 4-3 on this ground in 2005.

Killie started pretty brightly, keeping possession well, but it was the visitors who fashioned the game's first opportunity on eight minutes.

Patient passing eventually saw them work the ball wide right for Fraser Murray, who moved inside and found McManus.

He laid the ball off to Kevin O'Hara, but his side-foot effort floated harmlessly wide of Doyle's goal.

McManus came closer 10 minutes later when, after picking up Turner's pass, he turned and curled one from 25 yards towards goal, but sent it not too far wide of target.

Kilmarnock, though, were competing well and Nicke Kabamba forced Paul Watson into a good block as he went for goal in the 26th minute but, other than a couple of dangerous Burke crosses into the box, that was about it for the remainder of the opening period.

Dunfermline came out for the restart with purpose and, after both Turner and O'Hara had efforts blocked, a good run by McManus was stopped abruptly by Dicker.

The former Falkirk hitman took the free-kick himself but, from around 20-25 yards, sent his effort over the top.

But, 10 minutes into the second half, the Pars took the lead - and it was Friday's match-winning combination who provided again.

Thomas did extremely well on the left to show good close control and win a free-kick.

He sent a sublime delivery into the area and Euan Murray was lurking to clinically head home his third goal in just two games.

The visitors now had the bit between their teeth and Thomas, with a rasping drive across goal, was only prevented from finding the top corner by the fingers of Doyle, with Watson then heading over from the resulting corner.

Doyle then saved Kilmarnock again by blocking Thomas' driven ball across the six-yard box with his right boot after McManus played him in superbly, while Burke caused concern with a dipping 30-yarder that, thankfully, landed just over the bar.

Dow replaced O'Hara in the 66th minute before Josh Rennie, with a header, then forced Gill into his first real save of the evening after connecting with a left-wing cross.

Thomas, however, was soon causing problems at the other end once more, this time glancing the bar with a vicious delivery from the left, and he again was involved in Dunfermline's second.

He held the ball well in the left corner before laying it off to McManus, who sent a peach of a right-foot cross to the back post where Fraser Murray was waiting to head powerfully into the bottom corner of the net.

But, with seven minutes to go, he saved the best 'til last.

After substitute Lewis McCann won a free-kick anywhere between 30-35 yards out, Murray stepped up and sent a quite sensational strike arrowing into the top corner to seal a superb win and leave Dunfermline top of the group with three wins from three.

Kilmarnock: Doyle, Sloan, Dicker, Ross, Deveney, Burke, McKenzie, Haunstrup, Cameron, Warnock, Kabamba.

Subs: Broun, Abed, Smith, Russell, Devenny, Dee, Rennie, Mullen.

Dunfermline: Gill, Edwards, E. Murray, Watson, Whittaker, F. Murray, Turner, Wilson, Thomas, O'Hara, McManus.

Subs: Fon Williams, Martin, McGill, Dow, McCann, Allan, Fenton, Swinton.

Goals: E. Murray (55), F. Murray (72, 83).

Referee: Andrew Dallas.