Kilmarnock 2-3 Dundee Utd

By Andy CampbellBBC Sport Scotland at Rugby Park

A hat-trick from Johnny Russell transformed Dundee United's afternoon as they came from behind to beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Manuel Pascali tucked in the opener for Killie but Russell levelled with a clinical finish before the break.

The diminutive striker headed United in front on 63 minutes from Keith Watson's excellent cross.

Russell slipped the ball past Cammy Bell before Pascali headed a late consolation for the hosts.

A top-six Scottish Premier League finish was set as a target by Peter Houston in the week he announced he would be leaving at the end of the season.

And, with Russell in scoring form again, allied to the return of Gary Mackay-Steven, the Tangerines were able to demonstrate their potent attacking capabilities on a cold afternoon in Ayrshire.

Russell headed a Barry Douglas free-kick into the net only to be flagged offside early in the match.

Mackay-Steven was giving the visitors some impetus, and the winger reminded fans of his skills with an audacious flick-up and header to escape a raft of Killie players before eventually being fouled.

But it was the hosts who took the lead against the run of play, with Pascali slamming the ball home after James Dayton's corner was headed down by Danny Racchi.

Jon Daly and Mackay-Steven were unsuccessful with volleys before the former headed wide as United pressed hard for a leveller.

And the equaliser came shortly before the break with Russell's low drive finding the net after Killie had only partially cleared Keith Watson's cross.

Neither side took a real grip of the game at the start of the second half until Watson went on a marauding run on the right.

The full-back cantered down the flank before sending an inch-perfect delivery onto the head of Russell, who applied the finish.

Russell had another chance when he latched on to a long ball but Bell did well to turn the shot out for a corner.

Killie's Mohamadou Sissoko scraped the outside of the post with a long-range effort and Kenny Shiels' side, playing their first match since the sales of Liam Kelly and Michael Nelson, continued to press in the closing stages.

But the hosts' pursuit of parity left them vulnerable to breakaway attacks and Russell was able to burst away from a stretched defence to sidefoot the ball past Bell and claim a treble.

There was still time for Pascali to head one back for Kilmarnock but the final whistle soon ended the home side's hopes of a comeback.