THEY had been hoping for a slip up from Celtic in the lunch-time kick-off but with the Premiership leaders doing enough to get the victory and the three points against Partick Thistle, Aberdeen went into this match knowing that the best they could do was keep the pressure on the defending champions.
The dreams of heading to the top of the table would have to wait for another day but a victory would take them back to within a point of Ronny Deila’s men.
For a team doing remarkably well in their bid to upset the norm and wrestle the main trophy away from Glasgow, they have still had to weather ongoing questions about their mentality and whether they have the bottle to see them over the line. They went some way to answering the sceptics with the midweek win over Partick Thistle but yesterday was another match they were expected to win and anything less would be unthinkable.
It might be close victories but they all count.
“We could have made that game a bit more comfortable that it ended being,” admitted Aberdeen boss Derek Mcinnes. “But from their equaliser we upped our game again and made the game go our way. Of course, I would like to win by more and sometimes we do make it hard for ourselves and we have spoken about that and said we need to be more clinical, but I would take winning by one goal in every game between now and the end of the season.”
Within the opening period the home side were denied by the upright, when Kenny McLean’s shot crashed back off the inside of the post, with Kilmarnock keeper Jamie MacDonald at full stretch. The keeper then had to deny Niall McGinn as he charged through, getting a strong palm to the eventual shot and parrying it.
But if he was chuffed with that one, he was furious in the 36th minute when Aberdeen were granted a corner he didn’t think they had earned and he was then left exposed as Ash Taylor rose unchallenged to head down a Barry Robson delivery and open the scoring.
Against a side desperate to put greater distance between themselves and the foot of the table, victory was never going to be a foregone conclusion, though. Kilmarnock know that they need to start pulling together some points or they face the reality of a play-off place, or worse, and they showed they still have some fight in them, even if it did take them too long to bare their teeth, according to their manager Lee Clark. “I said to the players at half time that we had wasted a half of football and played with a bit of fear. I’m just a bit frustrated because, in the end, we deserved something from the game but we wasted 45 minutes of football and we are not in a position to do that. From now to the end of the season we cant afford to waste any minutes in a game.”
He obviously conveyed his annoyance eloquently at half-time because his players emerged for the second half with a different mindset. “I said we weren’t aggressive without the ball and we weren’t aggressive with it. It was half hearted until the second half when we did it all full throttle and caused them problems. It shows me that there are positives and we can compete.
“I’m super confident that we will be fine come the end of the season. We always knew that this and next week would be two unbelievably tough games for us but I enjoyed what we did in the second half and I didn’t think we looked like a team sitting second bottom of the table. We need to just keep fighting.”
Starting the second half with some purpose, they got a goal back when the ball was crossed into Rory McKenzie at the back post and he played it back to Josh Magennis in front of goal. Back at his old stomping ground, the former Aberdeen striker buried his effort.
It provoked an uneasy response in the home stands. Some are convinced that this is there year, others are more cautious but everyone is hoping. There have been chances passed up before, draws that could have been wins, defeats that had promised more. Had they managed to bring home those results, they know they would have been clear of Celtic at the top but this time the players on the pitch were determined there would be no profligacy, no regrets.
In the 54th minute McGinn forced another quality save from MacDonald but Kilmarnock were keeping things interesting. Magennis broke in on the angle of the box but a sly wee tug unbalanced him and he pulled his shot wide.
Heading back up the park, Aberdeen’s McGinn curled a ball into the area and although McLean read the delivery, he couldn’t quite get into the area in time to get a head to it. There were appeals for a penalty with about 25 minutes to go when Hayes went to ground under the attentions of Lee Hodson but the referee was unconvinced. It meant that Aberdeen had to wait until the 71st minute for the goal that would give them the vital three points and it came courtesy of a Hayes cross in for Logan, in his 100th game for the club, whose diving header was enough to separate the sides.
Aberdeen defender Ash taylor, third from right, is sent crashing to the turf after heading in the home side’s opener at Pittodrie. Photograph: SNS
‘I would like to win by more and sometimes we do make it hard for ourselves’
Taylor 36; Logan 71