Scott Arfield has praised defensive duo Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic for keeping their heads as Rangers looked set to suffer an opening day slip at Rugby Park.

Arfield pounced 16 minutes in to put Gers ahead after Kilmarnock keeper Laurentiu Branescu spilled a Katic header.

But Rangers – who failed to beat Killie on league duty last term – were in danger of dropping more points when Stephen O’Donnell was allowed to slam the hosts level with seven minutes left.

Goldson, however, came to the rescue as he crashed home in the 90th minute after climbing above the home defence and Arfield praised both centre-backs for their ability in the air.

He said: “Connor has got that desire in him and Niko has that in him as well as he pops up with some goals. The two of them have that desire to get their heads on it and it helps us at times.

“When the ball gets lumped up nobody really sees it but when you’re under pressure and they’re lumping it on us then we really appreciate what they do and when it’s at the opposition goal and Connor puts it in it’s very enjoyable.

“It was Niko who had the header saved and it dropped for my goal and he’s got that heart and desire so fair play to them both.”

The result heaps fresh pain on Killie boss Angelo Alessio following their Europa League disaster against Connah’s Quay Nomads.

But the Italian was delighted with his players’ display as he insisted it showed their unity following reports of behind-the-scenes crisis talks between the disgruntled squad and Rugby Park chief Billy Bowie.

“I’m sure of my team and my players,” he said. “These players have a good attitude and mentality, which they showed in every game last season.

“I’ve read the players are unhappy but that’s not true and they showed it with a good performance today. We still have to improve but I’m happy with my team.”