Derek McInnes unsurprisingly named an unchanged side this afternoon from the one which won so well on New Year's Day against Dundee United. New loan signing Alan Tate was given a spot on the bench alongside Calvin Zola who returned from injury. The Dons lined up in the usual 4-5-1 formation with Langfield in goal, Hector playing his last game at right back, Anderson and Reynolds in central defence and Jonny Hayes at left back. The midfield four were Robson, Jack, Flood and McGinn with Pawlett just playing off Vernon.
As the teams came out the large Dons support were singing Michael Hector's name. As expected the pitch was rather heavy after all the torrential rain they have had in the area and it was very windy. As early as the second minute the Dons had a good chance to take the lead. On the break Pawlett broke forward at pace before playing the ball wide to McGinn. Niall had a clear run at goal and from a tight angle he elected to shoot but found the side netting of Samson's near post. There were options to his right and he might have been better squaring it. After that Aberdeen enjoyed some good possession in the early stages but were unable to create anything in the final third.
On 10 minutes Hector did well at the back post area to knock the ball behind for the first corner of the game with Muirhead looking to pounce. On 13 minutes Kris Boyd had the ball in the net but referee Craig Charleston penalised the former Scotland striker for a push on Anderson. It looked a close call. Anderson and Boyd had quite a tussle all afternoon. On 15 minutes the Dons hit Killie on the break again. Pawlett burst forward before spraying the ball wide to Robson. He brilliantly cut inside the full back before putting over an enticing cross. Jack rose perfectly to head the ball goal ward but his effort rebounded off the bar. The midfielder was desperately unlucky not to grab his first of the season. A minute later an even better chance for the home side. A number of the players were struggling to keep their feet on the slippery surface and Flood slipped when in possession of the ball in a dangerous area. Boyd pounced and was through one on one with Langfield but the keeper stood up as long as he could and made an excellent block with his body. It was a really good save. On 18 minutes the Kilmarnock keeper had to look lively when a long kick out from Langfield went all the way through to McGinn but Samson did well to get out quickly and tackle him.
The game was by now very open and the home side had certainly come back into things. They were pressing the Dons very well and the Aberdeen midfield was not getting everything their own way.
On 24 minutes Chris Johnston had an opening after he picked the ball up about 10 yards out and was completely unmarked. The winger smashed a shot which Langfield appeared to tip over the bar. It looked a brilliant save but the ref gave a goal kick. Although there may also have been an offside decision. On 27 minutes Hector won the Dons their first corner. Robson swung over a great ball but frustratingly there were no red jerseys on hand to take advantage. On the half hour mark a short back pass by Hayes allowed Rory McKenzie to get a run in on goal but Reynolds had read the situation and got over to cover and did enough to put McKenzie off.
Towards the end of the half the home side were on top. Like when the Dons were on top in the early stages they were unable to put any real pressure on the Aberdeen goal.
On 39 minutes Hayes was booked. From the resulting free kick Anderson very nearly put the ball into his own net. It was actually very good defending as he had to get a touch on the ball as there was a Kilmarnock man behind him. On 43 minutes Pawlett again burst forward and got past the last man before being brought down. The referee penalised Pawlett though for handball. It looked another close call. In the final minute Hector hit a decent shot with his left foot but Samson was able to make a comfortable save and then Hayes put over a good cross which was headed to safety.
At the start of the second half the wind appeared to pick up.
On 49 minutes Pascali gave away a needless corner. Robson swung in another good ball which was headed clear. The ball was played back into the danger area and Jack got in a header which was going in before Samson tipped it over. Aberdeen won a series of corners, four in the first eight minutes, building up some momentum. On 55 minutes a great ball across the face of goal was put in by Pawlett but the wind picked it up and took it away from McGinn.On 58 minutes Anderson was booked for pulling back Johnston. The free kick was only about 20 yards out and Sammy Clingan- Niall McGinn's Northern Ireland roommate- got the ball around the wall but Langfield dived low to his left and tipped the ball around the post. Another very decent save.
As the half wore on and the game got more stretched you felt the Dons fitness, and the fact they had an extra day to recover, was beginning to be a factor. Allan Johnston's side though were very well organised and were giving the Dons no shooting opportunities. On 67 minutes McKenzie was booked for a foul on Hayes and then the home side made a substitution with ex Dons favourite Barry Nicholson replacing Chris Johnston. On the 71st minute mark Derek McInnes made a double change. Magennis replaced Vernon and Low came on for Robson. After 73 minutes Flood was penalised harshly for a hand ball. Clingan again got the ball around the wall but Langfield watched it all the way and tipped the ball over. On 76 minutes, a real opening for the visitors. Pawlett got the better of Pascali who fell over. Peter, who had been well marshalled after afternoon, got to the byline and cut a clever ball back for McGinn who hit a low first time shot but Samson made a really good save diving low to his left.
Aberdeen were by now well on top but the final ball was more often than not going astray. The conditions were to blame for that more than anything else. It was certainly not an afternoon for silky soccer.
On 81 minutes Jack gave the ball away in the middle of the park. It looked like Killie would break but instead Jack made an excellent tackle to win the ball back. He played it to McGinn who played Pawlett in. The striker was only about 8 yards out and blasted the ball at the goal but Samson again made an excellent save. Probably the best save of the afternoon. From the resulting corner on 82 minutes McGinn put over a good ball and Reynolds, unmarked, headed the ball into the corner of the net, and the Dons were ahead. They had put over so many good balls from corners it was only a matter of time before someone would get a chance and thankfully Reynolds took it.
In the final minutes Pawlett was replaced by Shaughnessy as the Dons tried to protect their lead. That task became harder when Nicky Low was sent off. It seemed a harsh decision as Nicky seemed to slip but thankfully the Dons comfortably withstood the three minutes of injury time. This was not a pretty game of football but it was so encouraging the way the Dons ground out the result. An emotional Michael Hector at the end of the game took the applause from the Aberdeen fans as he said his goodbyes. Let's hope we see him back. A very good footballer, a very good professional and an extremely likable and intelligent young man.