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Clarke happy with record-breaking Kilmarnock finish

A 1-0 win over Hearts gave the Ayrshire side their highest top-flight points total.

Satisfied: Clarke signed off with a win.
Satisfied: Clarke signed off with a win. SNS Group

Steve Clarke saw his Kilmarnock side end their season with a 1-0 win over Hearts and credited the players for breaking a record in the process.

Victory at Rugby Park gave the side a final tally of 59 points, the highest Kilmarnock have recorded in the top flight.

Clarke said it was good to see a memorable season marked with an achievement like that but joked that the players had fallen short of their target.

"I'm not crazy on stats but it is another little notch for us," he said.

"It is nice for this group of players to get that recognition from a very difficult start to the season. They have managed to put together a great run.

"They have managed to end up with 59 points. I did set them 60 so they have come up short!"

Kilmarnock's rise from relegation trouble to top six had seen Clarke and his players get plaudits but they were without a win after the split until Sunday's victory.

"It was important for us to get the win," he said. "The pressure was on us to get the win although we didn't do it in any great style.

"There has been a positive atmosphere around the club and it was important we didn't send the fans home disappointed with the result. Over 6,000 people for the game is a step in the right direction."

Injury and suspnsion had left Hearts manager Craig Levein with a headache and he was forced to start with four 16-year-olds. Given the circumstances, he was happy to take all the positive from the young players he pitched into action.

"It was a hard day for us and I'm delighted for them, particularly the guys making their debuts," Levein said.

"There was part of me fearing it could be sore but Jack Hamilton made three really, really good saves when we needed him. We got away with one but all credit to the boys.

"It will do them the world of good. I think Chrissy Hamilton in particular, when you look at the size of him and the way he pushed himself with Boydy (Kris Boyd), who is a handful for any senior centre-back, I thought his performance was fantastic.

"Chrissy in particular has an old head on young shoulders, he just understands the art of defending.

"Some players can go right through their career and not understand that completely but he just knows how to defend. He knows when to buy free-kicks, if you like.

"And then when Boydy smashed into him - it's quite brave standing in front of a train, isn't it?

"If he was another five or six inches taller he'd be worth a fortune already because he just knows how to defend.

"The amount of times it's him who clears the ball from inside the penalty box just by being in the right place at the right time.

"It's a wee bit like a really good striker's instinct to be in the right part of the box when the ball arrives - I think the best defenders are the same."

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