Hull City have now been told four times that Scott McKenna is not for sale at any price during the current transfer window and you can see why Derek McInnes is so determined to hold on to the young defender given his priceless contribution to their latest victory against Kilmarnock.
The fact they played the Rugby Park side next was perhaps the only consolation for the Dons as they made their way home from another defeat at Ibrox in midweek as this result makes it 15 wins and one draw in meetings between the pair since McInnes took over as manager.
However, that predictable outcome looked threatened until McKenna proved he can be just as effective going forward as he is at the back with a crucial part in Aberdeen’s equaliser before a staggering 40-yard strike to edge them ahead, all within seven minutes of the restart.
That transformation on the pitch was matched in the stands as the jeers that greeted the home players as they departed at the interval, trailing to Kris Boyd’s 120th goal in his 300th appearance for Killie, turned to cheers for virtually their every touch thereafter.
Deservedly so as far as Niall McGinn was concerned as he teased and tormented Kilmarnock with the quality of his crosses and
set-piece delivery all afternoon before marking his first start second time around with a sublime goal to confirm victory in 72 minutes.
It was the Northern Ireland international’s corner in 49 minutes that was met by McKenna’s thumping header and then turned on to the underside of the bar by Jamie MacDonald, with the only doubt being whether the ball landed over the line before Adam Rooney made sure.
There was no debate necessary over McKenna’s second three minutes later, though, as he strode on to McGinn’s pass before unleashing an audacious, swerving drive that soared into the top
left-hand corner of MacDonald’s net from just a few yards beyond the centre circle.
“I spoke last week about Mackay-Steven’s goal against St Mirren [in the Scottish Cup] and I said we probably wouldn’t see a better goal all season up here. One week later, we have,” said an understandably impressed McInnes.
“It tells you a lot about where McKenna’s game is at the minute that he’s confident enough to even take it on. We had the wind behind us in the second half, and Scott’s strike is still gathering speed as it flies by MacDonald. It literally has nearly burst the net – it was a magnificent strike.
“He’s probably the only one that thought when he stepped on to it that having the shot was the right decision. Thankfully he made that decision but his overall game was magnificent, not just the strike.”
Hull City obviously think so as having had three bids for the player rejected McInnes actually contacted the Championship side on Friday night to reiterate the player was going nowhere but Aston Villa may yet test that resolve after sending someone to watch McKenna yesterday.
The win he did so much to inspire takes Aberdeen back above Rangers, at least until the Ibrox side play Ross County today, but it leaves Steve Clarke’s side hovering just above the relegation play-off place despite an upturn in results since he took charge.
Kilmarnock are a much tougher prospect now than when Lee McCulloch brought his side north at the start of the season but given their record against Aberdeen it should be no surprise that this was their first defeat in eight matches, since a similar scoreline when the teams met at Rugby Park last November.
They had taken the sting out of the Dons’ early attacking verve although there was a huge slice of luck as Boyd claimed his 13th goal of the season as Greg Taylor’s shot deflected into the net off the experienced striker’s backside.
That luck ran out in the second half but Clarke is too experienced to have been carried away by recent results and said: “I’ve never stopped looking over my shoulder since I came into the club. There’s talk about us getting into the top six but it will take us probably until the league splits to recover from three points in the opening eight games.
“You can’t give away 21 points in the first eight games and hope you’re going to have a nice smooth ride right through the season. We knew these moments would come when the league would concertina and tighten-up behind us.”