IF further evidence is required that Kris Commons is comfortably leading the way in the Player of the Year contenders, the Celtic forward gave another glowing reminder of why he is favourite to scoop the award at Rugby Park.
The 31-year-old, like many of his colleagues, was a peripheral figure in the first period but exploded into life following the intermission and yet again ended up taking the match ball home after claiming his third hat-trick for the club.
Undoubtedly the star of the show, the inspirational Scot grabbed an otherwise dull game by the scruff of its neck and swung it firmly in Celtic’s favour with an array of quality finishing to take his tally this term to 26 in all competitions.
Compare that to the solitary goal he had at this stage 12 months ago illustrates just how much he has improved on attributes that have prevented him from furthering his career in the past.
Dedicating the treble to the birthday boy, his three-year-old son would have been proud of witnessing another stunning salvo to add to a series of glittering match-changing performances.
It was hardly a single-handed salvage operation which overcame Allan Johnston’s men in the end but more often than not, Commons has dragged the Hoops out of the mire and over the finishing line.
With the days ticking by and the trophies being polished in anticipation, the awards dinner edges ever closer but there surely can be only one name being considered to clean out the end of season prizes in Scotland.
The travelling Hoops faithful who gave him a warm standing ovation at full-time will certainly be backing his case.
Changing the outcome in the blink of an eye, opening the scoring on countless occasions, tearing defences to shreds. The talismanic Commons has capably stepped into the shoes of Gary Hooper as the leading scorer, and has gleefully accepted the freedom given to showcase his talent, with the invaluable assistance of his team-mates.
Accepting the sole responsibility and extra scoring burden within a title-winning squad can harm the confidence of the best in the business but the Mansfield-born ‘magician’ has felt no such pressure.
As the Kilmarnock defence harshly discovered, his unique ability to split centre-backs in two and breach the resistance in tight contests is utterly ruthless.
The stand-out performer in a faltering campaign and described as ‘the master’ by his manager, Commons has lit up the Scottish Premiership this term and was the catalyst to another comfortable victory in their unchallenged quest to sew up another title.
He may have admitted in the tunnel afterwards that the primary focus is smashing the 100-point barrier and not on individual plaudits but even by his own admissions, his remarkable form must exceed even his own expectations.
Expressing his desire to add more goals to his growing account before the season is out, the division’s defenders – however experienced – must be shivering in their boots.
Commons began proceedings in East Ayrshire at the tip of the midfield diamond, employed in conjunction with 17-year-old Liam Henderson, captain Scott Brown and Norwegian Stefan Johansen but could not become the instant influential presence that he has so often been this term.
The former Derby man has always set high standards and works towards personal targets and after a lacklustre first period, he quickly set about providing the spark which turned the momentum.
The Hoops had struggled for a cutting edge until the 57th minute when, exchanging passes with Leigh Griffiths, Commons slithered down the outside of Lee Ashcroft and poked home into the bottom corner.
Just over a minute later, his scoring instincts were exorcised again and the game was effectively over.
Commons inevitably initiated the move by playing the ball out to marauding Welshman Adam Matthews down the right but he did not stand to admire his raking pass, instead continuing his raid into the box and got his just rewards by tapping home from close range.
The most changed factor of his game is his hunger to take the next step and positive attitude to chase lost causes.
The retired 12-cap Scotsman did not rest on his laurels and wasn’t content with two goals but persistently searched for a hat-trick to crown his night. And that’s exactly what he did.
He certainly saved the best to last, collecting Charlie Mulgrew’s pass and turning exquisitely into space before striding forward and despatching an accurate low shot which nestled into the bottom corner beyond a helpless Samson.
With nine games remaining, there is still plenty of time for Commons to make a further impression, which would surely get Gordon Strachan persuading him to end the international exile.
Another championship winning medal may be just around the corner but the 30-goal benchmark that the top marksmen aim to achieve is first in sight for a man that has personal glory within his grasp.
Fraser Forster has smashed records, Virgil van Dijk has been a revelation and the authoratitive Scott Brown has captained the ship with leadership skills like no other. But it’s goals and assists that change games and ultimately win titles.
Putting Georgios Samaras, Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki to shame, Commons has been the shining light down the pathway to an unforgettable league campaign and the integral clog in a settled side which has run like clockwork.
On reflection, a personalised glass momento is the least he deserves, as recognition of the best-scoring season of his career alone. You cannot discount his overall contribution, assists, corners, free-kicks and even the odd piece of defending.
It’s easy to forget – the goal-line clearance from Hearts’s Dylan McGowan spared Celtic’s blushes back in December.
Stevie May has been the main source of St Johnstone’s goals, the Dundee United youngsters have come of age and Aberdeen have their fair share of nominees. Commons though, in all honesty, is a class apart. In a league of his own.
Neil Lennon has continually talked up Commons’s chances of picking up the 2013/14 best of the rest accolade and now after the latest man of the match showing, the engravers might just start carving his name into the record books.