Aberdeen 0 - 2 Kilmarnock: Brophy and Stewart see off ten-man Dons
Goals from Eamonn Brophy and Greg Stewart gave Kilmarnock a first victory in 21 attempts since Derek McInnes took over as Aberdeen manager but once again refereeing decisions played a major part in an outcome.
Last week it was Steve Clarke complaining about Willie Collum’s haste in dismissing Gary Dicker in the Rugby Park defeat against Hearts and this time McInnes was left questioning the speed of Craig Thomson’s decision to issue a straight red card to Mikey Devlin after just five minutes.
Clarke’s subsequent comments could mean an invitation to explain himself to disciplinary panel so it’s hardly surprising that he did have some sympathy for his Pittodrie counterpart after this latest controversial incident.
For his part McInnes was careful in response to that and other decisions that caused consternation, including the build-up to Brophy’s opener, but they may well appeal the dismissal as he said:“It’s debatable whether he [Devlin] was the last man or not.
“I don’t know if he [Thomson] has consulted with the linesman in his earpiece. We will look at it and decide whether to appeal. I felt he maybe made the decision too quick without consultation but I don’t know.
“We are aggrieved by the build up to the first goal. It’s different if it’s accidental, but he’s [Stephen O’Donnell] handled it and played it into his team-mate’s path. That should have been a handball.
“Refs need to make decisions and we don’t feel we got the rub of the green today because Shinnie is also adamant he won the ball at the free kick as well.
“It was a fantastic free kick from Eamonn Brophy, take nothing away from that, but that goal made things very difficult.”
It’s also Sod’s Law that McInnes claimed in the build up that he had assembled a stronger squad than the one that edged out Rangers for second place last season as the Aberdeen manager couldn’t have imagined just how intensely that statement would be scrutinised here.
Scott McKenna, Scott Wright and Mark Reynolds were already out injured and they were joined on the sidelines by Watford’s on-loan defender Tommie Hoban and Manchester United’s on-loan striker James Wilson prior to kick-off.
Wilson is expected to be fit to face St Johnstone after the international break but Hoban’s shoulder injury will keep him out for months and to make matters worse Devlin was sent off just five minutes into the game.
The former Hamilton player got a straight red for hauling back Brophy in what referee Craig Thomson saw as denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, not a decision McInnes concurred with.
Nor were many of the other ones the officials made during a frankly frenetic opening period, climaxing in the Dons manager being spoken to by Thomson on the touchline shortly after Brophy’s opener, scored direct from that controversial 25 yard free kick.
Brophy maximised the pain with a simply sublime effort that finally got the better of Joe Lewis who had been in inspired form as the Aberdeen goalkeeper made a series of excellent saves to prevent the visitors exploiting their man advantage any earlier.
Brophy had suffered more than most as Lewis kept out both his close range header and excellent spin and shot from the edge of the area, while a post prevented another of the former Hamilton forward’s long range efforts counting.
Chris Burke didn’t have any more luck in 27 minutes as Lewis saved at the winger’s feet when he tried to take the ball round the goalkeeper after gathering a wonderful defence splitting pass from Aaron Tshibola.
Not that Lewis was at fault for the decisive second goal in 69 minutes either although Andy Considine and Dominic Ball can’t be so easily exonerated as former team mate Stewart eased away from the pair on a run from half way that ended with an exquisite chip over the goalkeeper.
It was the perfect start at Kilmarnock for the striker who managed only four goals when on a similar season long loan at Pittodrie last season and admits he was fated to score as he said: “You could say the writing was on the wall for me to come back here and score.
“I have mates here and it often works out that way when you go back to your old club. I did have a think about that this morning and you always think you will get a goal.
“I’m delighted, I have had a staggered few seasons so I’m delighted to be here and get off the mark so early.”