THERE was no relief to be found here yesterday for Kilmarnock, whose poor start to the season continued at the hands of an Aberdeen team already desperate to keep pace with Celtic.
Few expected there would be much succour to be gleaned from this trip to Pittodrie for a Kilmarnock side still smarting after their 4-0 defeat to Dundee on the opening day.
But this was as joyless an experience for the visitors as most had feared.
Gary Locke continues to struggle to find the blend he hopes might see results improve. Including their nightmare end to last season, this was their tenth defeat in 11 outings. They have now lost eight successive matches against Aberdeen.
Kris Boyd spent an unhappy time up front on his own until joined by Greg Kiltie. But there was so little happening for Kilmarnock in the first hour that it would have been possible to forget Boyd was playing were it not for the chorus of “Sumo” each time the ball came anywhere near his vicinity, which wasn’t often. Former Aberdeen player Josh Magennis also came on to supplement Kilmarnock’s attacking options but the points had already been secured in an efficient manner by the home side.
Kilmarnock were so punchless that it was hard to tell whether Aberdeen were suffering from a European hangover or not. But a goal in each half from Graeme Shinnie and Adam Rooney, who got his season up and running from the penalty spot, meant the home side avoided any potential mishaps on their return to domestic action.
Shinnie’s goal was an extra special moment, not least because he is a local boy. But it was an exquisite finish too from the left back, who enjoyed another fine afternoon for his new side.
With this victory maintaining their 100 per cent record, perhaps there might now be some frustration at the decision to postpone the midweek clash with Hamilton Accies due to recent European endeavours.
It means Aberdeen could lose ground on Celtic by the time they return to action this weekend against Motherwell. But then a long season still lies ahead.
Before the game it was a question of which manager was going to make most changes; Locke on account of his side’s startling thrashing by Dundee or Derek McInnes, who had to be alert to the physical and psychological impact of Thursday night’s Europa League aggregate defeat to Kairat Almaty.
In the end, they chose to make three changes each although Locke, you suspect, toyed with making several more given how dire Killie had been eight days earlier. Mark O’Hara, Lee Ashcroft and Rory McKenzie replaced Stuart Findlay, Chris Johnston and Magennis.
For Aberdeen, meanwhile, Paul Quinn, Willo Flood and Rooney came in for Andrew Considine, Peter Pawlett – who twisted an ankle in training – and David Goodwillie.
Quinn came on as a substitute against Kairat and was unfortunate to see a late header that would have earned Aberdeen extra-time tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper. A starter yesterday, the defender was again denied a first goal for his new club by the woodwork after a Jonny Hayes corner.
Given the determined way Aberdeen started, you sensed it was only a matter of time until they opened the scoring. Kilmarnock were picking up bookings as quickly as they were losing their grip on the game, if indeed they ever had a grip of it. Kallum Higginbotham was cautioned for a particularly clumsy looking foul on Niall McGinn.
But it was Jamie Hamill’s idiotic barge from behind on the same player that saw Aberdeen nearly open the scoring. Hayes’ free-kick was met at the far post by Shay Logan, of all people, but his header was brilliantly saved by Jamie MacDonald. Hayes was the provider once more when Aberdeen finally went ahead after 36 minutes.
The Irishman rode several challenges as he made his way into the box. While the ball broke kindly for him on at least one occasion he had the presence of mind to tap a pass into the path of Shinnie, who had made a good run on his outside. But the left back still had plenty to do as he curled a sumptuous finish with the outside of his left foot into the top corner of the net. Not a bad way to open your account for the team you grew up supporting.
Aberdeen’s second ten minutes after half-time was more straightforward. Ashcroft was lured into making an injudicious challenge inside the box on Flood, who tumbled to the turf. Referee Steven McLean quickly pointed to the spot and last season’s top scorer Rooney eagerly lapped up the chance to get off the mark in this campaign, finishing strongly past MacDonald.
It could well have been another four-goal shocker for Kilmarnock were it not for their goalkeeper, who dealt with two full-blooded drives from Logan. Poor old Boyd had one chance he headed wide. “Sumo, Sumo!” mocked the Aberdeen fans in response. Next up for the still-goalless Killie? Only leaders Celtic on Wednesday night.
Aberdeen: Ward, Logan, Taylor, Quinn, Shinnie, Flood, Jack, McGinn (Goodwillie 83), McLean (Smith 66), Hayes (Considine 66), Rooney. Subs not used: Robson, Brown, Storie, Wright.
Kilmarnock: MacDonald, Westlake, O’Hara (Magennis 57), Connolly, Ashcroft, Smith, Higginbotham (Kiltie 67), Hamill, Robinson, McKenzie, Boyd. Subs not used: Barbour, Findlay, Splaine, McKay, Hawkshaw