BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
KALLUM HIGGINBOTHAM admits he has unfinished business against Ayr United as the Dunfermline playmaker attempts to atone for his astonishing spot-kick nightmare.
The former Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle endured an afternoon to forget in his last outing against the Honest Men when – having never missed a competitive penalty – he saw TWO saved in the space of 60 seconds.
The heroics of Greg Fleming ensured Ayr left East End Park with a 1-1 draw in December and saw Higginbotham cut an inconsolable figure in the Pars dressing room.
However, the 27-year-old has never been a shrinking violet, with his catalogue of previously successful penalties including a ‘Panenka’ chip against Celtic, and he has not been cowed by those remarkable scenes.
Instead, Higginbotham has emerged as the talisman for a resurgent Dunfermline, turning in a particularly virtuoso performance in Monday’s 2-0 Fife derby win over Raith Rovers with two classy assists.
And, ominously for Ayr, he arrives at Somerset Park with a point to prove.
He told Capital City Press: “You could say I have unfinished business against Ayr!
“I missed the two penalties, which everyone knows, but I could easily have let my head drop after that. Instead, I came into training the following Monday and worked twice as hard and got it out of my head. You can’t obsess about things that have happened in the past.
“I had never missed a penalty before and, as I said to the boys, if there had been a third penalty in that game, I would have stepped up again.
“In hindsight, perhaps I should have given the ball to someone else, but we tried that against Dundee United [when Dunfermline missed three penalties] and it didn’t work! I am a confident player and I will always back myself.
“I feel like my performances have really picked up since those missed penalties and that’s all you can do – you either react badly when things go wrong or you dust yourself off and try to improve. Hopefully my recent form shows which one I have done.
“It would be perfect to get the winner on Saturday and then hopefully the fans can forget about those penalties.”
Higginbotham cuts a confident, contented figure and, after a couple of seasons in which his progress stalled, he is enjoying his football for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign, when he played a starring role for Partick Thistle.
He continued: “I’m loving it here, I’m coming in with a smile on my face every single day. And that is down to the gaffer [Allan Johnston] and Sandy [Clark, assistant manager]. I’ve had a couple of hard seasons – coming in and out of teams and not really enjoying my football.
“This could not be more different. I’ve been given the freedom to play every week, which is such a boost to your confidence. I feel that shows on the pitch, whether through my goals, assists or just working hard to contribute to the team.
“I think you need to go back to my first season at Partick Thistle for the last time I felt like this, for a number of reasons, and long may that continue.”