YOU know the script for these sort of wins. The victorious manager delights in the clinical nature of his team, expresses satisfaction on a job well done, and reflects on the ability of his men to grind out a result.
Kilmarnock - 0
Aberdeen - 2 Pawlett (45), Jack (71)
Referee: C Allan
And Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, if he so chose, could alight on all these well-worn staging posts after goals either half from Peter Pawlett and Ryan Jack clinched a first three points of the season against a desperately toothless Kilmarnock.
Yet, those willing to be more critical of the visitors’ performance last night could say that Aberdeen were clinical in as much as they hardly created a chance outside of their goals, and that they did an effective job and ground out a success because they were given immense assistance from opponents that passed their way to pointlessness.
“Same old, same old” offered a disgruntled, exiting Kilmarnock supporter as the encounter entered its closing minutes. He was right, and not, with his moan. Last season, Kilmarnock had the goals of Kris Boyd to offer hope of turning turgid displays into something more meaningful. With 22 strikes, Boyd did this often enough to keep the club out of the bottom two.
These are incredibly early days, but the front pairing of Josh Magennis and Tope Obedeyi does not offer a lot of hope of being a 22-goal combined strikeforce. It is why Michael Ngoo, with Hearts in the 2012-13 season and formerly of Liverpool, was in the Rugby Park stand watching on and is expected to join Killie today. Allan Johnston’s need to soup up his striking options is expected to lead his club to strike a deal with the gangly forward who is now a free agent.
For Kilmarnock, last night wasn’t your typical league opener. That was so for the fact that, more than how the teams’ played, the interest in the encounter centred on how the pitch would play. Kilmarnock, in one of those ‘innovative’ initiatives that just happen to provide huge cost savings, have promoted themselves as leading the way in the Scottish top tier through installing a synthetic surface. Word filtered through that journalists should not refer to the green grass-like covering of Rugby Park as plastic pitch. Rather it is a FieldTurf pitch that utilises the latest in 3G technology. Right.
The plastic pitch might have looked and, to most observers, played liked a normal football park. Alas, the game that was contested upon it seemed to suffer from having an artificial air about it, for at least a good half hour. With the super-dooper surface only signed off last Friday, the home team, who held out for a point at Dens at the weekend, were unable even to play a pre-season friendly in front of their home fans. In the early stages, it looked like that is what they were doing last night.
The lack of urgency from both teams in the first period was a genuine surprise. After their 3-0 doing by Dundee United in their own backyard in the Premiership curtain-raiser, the expectation was the Pittodrie side would be bursting to flush that experience from their system. Meanwhile, having shown glimpses of real promise in an engaging first period against Dundee, the recast Ayrshire side seemed certs to do their utmost to put on a show.
Instead, both sides seemed content to play passes in pedestrian fashion and effectively cancel each other out in the process. Magennis, turning out against his old club, could have contributed to the tempo being ramped up had he not dithered when in a scoring position on the right and hammered a low drive straight at Jamie Langdfield, before allowing his follow-up to meet precisely the same fate.
That was the extent of the keeper-stretching activity until the 28th minute, when Niall McGinn shifted the ball from one foot to the other in order to dart pass Chris Johnston before arrowing an effort towards goal that skiffed the crossbar. It appeared that would be that for near-things in a half that never threatened to smoulder, never mind catch light. Until, that is, a mix-up between Jamie Hamill and Craig Slater allowed Johnny Hayes to embark on a forceful, gap-creating run down the middle. Precisely the sort of attacking burst the game had been desperately lacking.
The preciousness of such enterprise was demonstrated when the Irishman ended his gallop goalwards by laying the ball off to Pawlett on the left. The attacker made the only great break of the opening period count in imperious fashion with the only great strike of said period, crashing an angled drive into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Kilmarnock would have felt that the loss of a goal seconds before the interval was rough on them, and considering what had gone before neither side really deserved a goal. Yet, the home side could have no quibbles about being put out their misery 19 minutes from time when Niall McGinn flighted in a cross from the right that Jack headed past Craig Samson.
Kilmarnock: Samson, Connolly, Barbour, Hamill, Chantler, Slater, Johnston (Muirhead 69), McKenzie (Eremenko 72), Pascali, Obadeyi (Cairney 77), Magennis. Subs not used: Clingan, Brennan, Ashcroft, O’Hara
Aberdeen: Langfield, Taylor (Shaughnessy 88), Reynolds, Logan, Considine, McGinn, Flood, Pawlett (Low 76), Jack, Hayes (Smith 92), Rooney. Subs not used: Robson, Goodwillie,Brown, Wright