By Calum McCrindle
Fresh off their Scottish Cup tie a fortnight prior, both teams began the game in the same cagey fashion in which they played their previous game. The warning signs were there early on for Aberdeen as Rory McKenzie had an audacious attempt from 25 yards saved by the outstretched arm of Joe Lewis.
Kilmarnock didn’t take long to conjure up another chance as Eamonn Brophy broke free and raced through on goal, however, he couldn’t convert the chance, lashing an effort against Lewis’ left-hand post.
The breakthrough would come a short while after for Kilmarnock as referee, Alan Newlands, controversially awarded a penalty to the Ayrshire side following an alleged handball by Ash Taylor. Brophy calmly dispatched his spot-kick past Lewis to put Alex Dyer’s men 1-0 up inside 20 minutes.
Out to prove a point following a disappointing 4-3 home defeat in the Scottish Cup, Kilmarnock doubled their lead. Greg Kiltie curled one into the Aberdeen goal to put the Ayrshire side two goals up before the halfway point of the first half.
The game settled shortly after Kilmarnock’s second goal, Dyer setting his team up to contain and hit Aberdeen on the break and it had Killie in the driver’s seat. His makeshift midfield of McKenzie and Dicker were doing their best to disrupt Lewis Ferguson and Funso Ojo on the ball.
Aberdeen found a lifeline ten minutes before half time. A cutback to Niall McGinn left the winger in acres of space inside the Killie box and he rifled his sixth goal of the season past Laurentiu Branescu to put the Dons back within touching distance before the break.
Derek McInnes led his side down the tunnel at half time a goal down, but it could’ve been worse if Kilmarnock had taken their first half chances. The Dons grew into the game as the game approached the 45-minute mark, but his side’s showing didn’t warrant a lead over the home side at half time.
Aberdeen came out from the tunnel at half time with a fire in their belly. Matty Kennedy was hugging the touchline and he dug out a ball for McGinn at the back post, the diminutive Northern Irishman poking a header past Branescu to equalise for the Dons and set up a tasty second half.
For all of Aberdeen’s dominance after the equaliser it was Kilmarnock that had the best chance shortly after. Stephen O’Donnell smashed an effort at goal from a tight angle which was equalled by Lewis in the Dons goal.
Brophy was the liveliest of the Killie forwards, powering a free kick at Lewis’ goal from 30 yards out with the Aberdeen man between the sticks equalling his effort with a strong save.
Kilmarnock created chance after chance throughout the second half, but Lewis was the Aberdeen hero saving most of the efforts coming his way. Kilmarnock may have managed to sneak one past Lewis had they taken more risks attacking the crosses coming in from Chris Burke and O’Donnell.
McInnes would have been the happier of the two managers following the full-time whistle as his side head back to Pittodrie with a point after finding themselves two down in Ayrshire. His opposite number, Dyer, was left with more questions than answers and a season that’s all but over. Here are three things we learned.
McInnes is still the man for Aberdeen
McInnes is very much a marmite figure with the Aberdeen support. You either love him or you hate him and the display against Kilmarnock was typical of McInnes’ Aberdeen team.
Throughout the first half his side struggled to create openings going forward but where McInnes’ has really excelled is getting this Aberdeen team defensively sound. The Dons are now unbeaten in four games away from home but to really get the best out of his side he’ll need his strikers to start converting chances.
McInnes style of football is often controversial but if it’s getting results and propelling Aberdeen towards European football again, then there’s not much more the Dons manager can do.
Brophy is back to form
Brophy had a poor start to the season under Angelo Alessio with the former Hamilton player a lonely figure up top under the Italian. With help from Nicke Kabamba, Brophy has brought goals back to his game.
The striker added another to his tally for the season, converting from the penalty spot to put Killie ahead. There was interest in Brophy from clubs down south last season as he started to become a more efficient goal scorer, but that interest dwindled after a poor first half of the season.
Now that the Scotland is back scoring goals again, the interest from teams outside Scotland will surely heat up again.
The top six is all but settled
With Kilmarnock dropping points at home against their top six rivals, the top half of the Scottish Premiership looks to be locked in for the final stretch of the season. Livingston picking up points against Celtic and Hibernian still looking strong means that Dyer’s side have a monumental task of finishing in the top half.
A tight battle between Aberdeen and Motherwell for third place could go down to the wire but with the title almost certainly wrapped up all eyes will now be firmly fixed on the bottom half of the league. Hearts, St Mirren and Hamilton picking up points in the mid-week fixtures could leave the bottom three fighting for survival as the season reaches its climax.