Aberdeen remain unbeaten in the Ladbrokes Premiership but lost ground on leaders Celtic after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock.
Jordan Jones’ goal was his first of the season – but more much significantly it guaranteed Kilmarnock’s first point in 14 games against Aberdeen to give manager Lee McCulloch hope that his reconstruction work might see them avoid the usual worries about relegation.
The former Rangers and Scotland international has made wholesale changes to his playing staff and the signs, after a fraught first 20 minutes, is that they are starting to gel. McCulloch was certainly happy with what they delivered at Pittodrie in response to his bemoaning their lack of graft and aggression when losing at Fir Park last weekend, with Jones coming in for handsome praise.
The Northern Irishman tormented Shay Logan, not something many have managed to do against the Dons right back, culminating in a 48th minute equaliser that may have been deflected beyond Joe Lewis but had even Derek McInnes admitting later it was merited.
It also had McCulloch extravagantly predicting the winger could finish the season representing his country at the World Cup in Russia.
He said: “Jordan has gone from not starting last week to a performance like that. If he keeps playing like that then this club won’t be able to keep a hold of him.
“We try to encourage him every day and get him out of his comfort zone. He’s been on standby for Northern Ireland and has the potential to go to the World Cup.
“It’s making him realise how good a player he is. We had group and individual meetings on Monday and JJ knows how highly I rate him.
“It was just getting him to realise how football can change for the better or worse in a week and he needs to realise he can play at the World Cup and it’s about consistency.”
That they went on to become the first bottom six side in over a year to take a point at Pittodrie was also down to Aberdeen’s lack of consistency on the day and it could have been worse for them if Stuart Findlay’s shot shortly afterwards hadn’t come back off the bar.
Serendipity also played its part for Kilmarnock though, as Iain Wilson being forced off with an injury after 20 minutes resulted in a switch in formation that totally transformed things for a team taking a pounding up until then.
Dean Hawkshaw took over, the Rugby Park side changing from three central defenders to a flat back four, and a side who until then needed a map to get out of their own half started to cause problems of their own.
Luckily for them, Aberdeen only had Stevie May’s stunning strike after ten minutes for all their early flowing football but they lost that fluency and intensity after about half an hour and Kilmarnock more than matched them from then on.
May proved his worth with a slide tackle to deny Lee Erwin an equaliser before Lewis himself took direct action to block from Calum Waters and Rory McKenzie before the interval.
That meant it wasn’t entirely surprising when the league’s bottom club levelled things three minutes after the interval when Jones climaxed a slick passing move with a shot that looped in over Lewis.
It all added up to another disappointing draw for Derek McInnes, as he said: “We didn’t show any rhythm or fluency to our game after a great start and it was similar to the disjointed performance at Murrayfield.
“There were moments of sloppiness in the goal we lost but Kilmarnock 100 per cent deserved their point.”