Kilmarnock 0 - 0 Aberdeen: Scott McKenna suffers injury blow

It was impossible to watch this attritional contest – with blood dripping from retinas – and not seek to frame it in the negative. In all sorts of ways. On its evidence, Kilmarnock might not be quite as bad as predicted, while Aberdeen might be worse.

Tempers flare at Rugby Park as 
Alan Power is floored by a challenge from Lewis Ferguson. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Tempers flare at Rugby Park as Alan Power is floored by a challenge from Lewis Ferguson. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Indeed, so little was there to reflect on from the 90 minutes, post-match chatter was drawn towards the possibility that Pittodrie centre-back Scott McKenna will be missing from the Scotland squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifying double header, as a result of being forced off midway through the first half with a hamstring tear. It was an injury Derek McInnes suggested was down to Killie’s new, and he stressed, mercifully improved, synthetic surface.

Meanwhile, McKenna’s international team-mate Greg Taylor, who missed out with a hamstring injury, is not on the verge of a move to Celtic in the final days of the window. As it stands. It’s only “a rumour” with no bid having being received, said Rugby Park manager Angelo Alessio, who reiterated the need to sign strikers rather than lose one of his integral players.

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Two teams in search of real form and confidence never looked like finding either at Rugby Park. Or the net. Or anything much by way of constructive football. The home side were marginally better than their visitors, especially during a second half they largely controlled and, shock horror, they actually carved out a goalscoring opportunity – Chris Burke clipping an effort off target after he had rounded keeper Joe Lewis. But the pickings weren’t so much slim as emaciated.

It was understandable for Alessio to petition that his team did enough to turn their first point of the season into three. Equally understandable for his Pittodrie counterpart McInnes to poo-poo that assessment.

“It was a game of teams playing it safe and predictable and 0-0 was what both of us deserved,” said the Aberdeen manager of a result that ended his club’s run of 11 straight successes at Rugby Park.

“Some of my players, whether here for a while or players just arrived [need to know] we’ve always prided ourselves in having a kind of Old Firm mentality home and away. We had the best away record in the league last year, we see the importance of every game. If any of the players are pleased with themselves, going back with a 0-0, thinking it’s not the worst result… Maybe it would have been decent at their previous club. But a draw feels like a defeat at Aberdeen and so it should – and it feels underwhelming tonight, the whole performance.

“We were OK, but OK doesn’t get the job done. We needed more from our forward areas, quicker passes, more intent, more quality, more willing – we have to ask more questions of the opposition.”

There was plenty of endeavour but a crushing lack of quality – as acknowledged by Craig Bryson, who earned his first league start at his former club, and probably wished he hadn’t in being forced to cope with conditions that he never did across eight years in English football, seven spent with Derby County and a year on loan at Cardiff City.

“I don’t think they’d allow it down in England,” the 32-year-old said. “You just have to get on with it. At the start, when they’ve watered it, the ball moves OK. When it dries out that wee bit then you don’t know how it’s going to bounce. In the first ten or 15 minutes it skids on a wee bit, but when it dries then it just bounces up. I don’t think it should be used in the top league in Scotland. You just have to get on with it. It’s the same for both teams. It’s average.”

McInnes didn’t blame the pitch for his team’s performance. He seemed in little doubt, though, that it was behind the loss of McKenna, who seems to have little chance of being named in the Scotland squad that Steve Clarke will announce on Tuesday for the home double header that will bring Russia to Hampden on 6 September before the visit of Belgium three days later.

“He [McKenna] slipped on the pitch going into a pass, and he felt a tear in his hamstring. So you would have to say, without knowing the result of a scan on Monday, that he’ll be at risk for next week and at risk for the Scotland games,” said McInnes, who was publicly belittling of a surface that he was no doubt despairing over in private. “The Kilmarnock players were moaning more about the pitch than mine were, the way they soak it at half-time, players slipping left right and centre, I thought it was difficult.”