Following last Sunday's extra-time victory over Dundee in the League Cup, Derek McInnes made two changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Rugby Park and its newly laid artificial surface, the dimensions newly reduced too compared with their early season Europa League qualifier. In came Lewis Ferguson, celebrating his 20th birthday, and James Wilson, replacing Ryan Hedges and Niall McGinn who were both on the bench. Bruce Anderson was also included among the substitutes. For Kilmarnock, Hamalainen, Millar and Dicker replaced Taylor, Cameron and McKenzie from the side that earned a 1-0 extra-time win over Hamilton at Rugby Park in the League Cup last weekend.
Just five minutes in, Shay Logan needed treatment after falling awkwardly onto his left arm but he was able to resume, an early indication that the surface might be less than ideal for football under the hot sun.
Two minutes later, Sam Cogrove darted onto a short pass from Ferguson and with his second touch, tried a snapshot from a couple of yards inside the box that flashed just wide. On the quarter hour, Wilson created space for himself on the left edge of the box before firing in a dangerous looking shot, Branescu across well to his left to collect low down.
The Dons were much the more constructive of the sides in the early exchanges, Killie's first sight of goal coming in the 20th minute, a very speculative effort from Power from some 30 yards out, his first time shot flying high into the stand.
A blistering effort from distance by Jon Gallagher knocked Broadfoot clean off his feet when he got in the way of it in the 22nd minute, the defender taking a real whack, taking a few moments to clear his head before he carried on.
Kilmarnock started to piece things together and in the 27th minute, they created space for Millar to cross, Joe Lewis up to collect. Immediately afterwards, Scott McKenna went down under no pressure and was instantly replaced by Zak Vyner, slotting in at right centre-half, Andy Considine moving over to the left.
El Makrini was the first man into the book, late on Ferguson on the half hour, as the game struggled to get going under the Ayrshire sun. Shortly afterwards, Vyner advanced into Kilmarnock territory before spearing a long ball forward, just a shade too far ahead of Cosgrove.
Great defending from Greg Leigh denied Brophy a real goalscoring chance after Millar was set on his way by Dicker, playing a dangerous ball in that the left-back did well to come across and snuff out in the 33rd minute. Signs though that the hosts were growing into the game a little more and looking to do more than simply frustrate Aberdeen by blocking up the reduced space on the park. Killie were then forced into their first change in the 36th minute, Broadfoot, still suffering from the effects of Gallagher's shot, making way for Bruce.
Funso Ojo had a pot shot at goal in the 39th minute, some 25 yards out, the sting taken out of it by a half block by a defender, meaning Branescu had a comfortable save to make. Two minutes later, Power conceded a free-kick 25 yards from goal, just left of the D. Ferguson stepped up and whipped it over the wall but the ball arced wide.
Shortly afterwards, Wilson was flattened to give the Dons a free-kick from the same distance, but on the other side of the D this time. Wilson tried a low, skidder with the left foot but it went straight at Branescu who handled the ball securely.
Into added time, Burke and O'Donnell played a clever one-two that put Burke into space, his 20 yarder easy meat for Lewis, bringing a pretty tepid first half to a close.
HALF-TIME: Kilmarnock 0 Aberdeen 0
There was a bright start to the second half, a good run down the right from Wilson forcing Bruce to deal well with his cross. In the 50th minute, a slip by Vyner let Brophy play Hamaleinen in but his shot from 16 yards was always swerving wide of goal, a good opportunity for the hosts.
Two minutes later, a half cleared free-kick fell to Millar on the edge of the box, his rasping drive always rising over the bar. Aberdeen swiftly responded, good work by Craig Bryson robbing El Makrini, Ferguson setting Wilson on the run, his right foot effort from a tight angle saved easily at the near post.
A minor scuffle broke out on halfway in the 61st minute after a coming together between Ferguson and Power, Ferguson collecting a yellow card on his birthday, Burke booked for dissent in the aftermath.
Connor McLennan, so influential at Dens last week, joined the action in the 70th minute, replacing Wilson on the right. Kilmarnock should have been in front a minute later, a great ball from Dicker bisecting the defence, Burke making a great run into the box but after rounding Lewis, he screwed his shot wide. Immediately, McKenzie replaced Millar for the home side, Niall McGinn then coming on for Bryson in Derek McInnes' final change.
Kilmarnock, having started the game with quite defensive mindset, were slowly growing in stature at this point, Power firing a 30 yard effort across goal and just wide of the post.
Into the last five minutes of a disappointing game and Kilmarnock made their third change, Brophy making way from Thomas who was their matchwinner in the cup-tie last weekend. The Dons finally fashioned some kind of chance in the 87th minute, McLennan setting McGinn up to cross, just too high for Cosgrove who had to stretch for his header and got no direction on it.
Bruce collected a booking for clipping Cosgrove late in the 89th minute some 35 yards out. McGinn dinked the ball in but again, in an afternoon of poor set plays at either end, it came to nothing.
As we entered the three minutes of time added on, McLennan went gliding past three defenders, his shot deflected behind for a corner which again came to nothing. Late in the game a McGinn free kick appeared to strike the hand of Stuart Findlay but referee Alan Muir waved play on and that was it.
A first point of the season will have pleased Kilmarnock while the Dons will be happy with the clean sheet after losing McKenna so early. But on an afternoon when the sticky surface meant that slicking the ball around was like pushing treacle up hill, it was probably the pitch that won.
"In the cold light of day a nil-nil and clean sheet away from home at Kilmarnock is never the worst result.
"The positive being the clean sheet on the road.
"The only other positive for me is we get Bryson a step closer to where we are going to need to get him. I thought his influence on the team was good in the first half and I thought we dictated the game for the majority of the first half. And his forward runs- I thought we lost that influence second half and the game became a bit more stretched. Other than from dead balls, I never felt under threat too much.
"I don't think either team did enough to win the game. I thought it was a game of teams playing a bit safe and a bit predictable. Nil-nil was exactly what both teams deserved to be honest. I think in forward areas we need to do more.
"I would like to have made another change in the forward area but obviously with McKenna's injury we had to make an enforced changed.
"We tried to freshen it up with McGinn and McLennan but there wasn't any real difference in terms of the pattern of play.
?Some of my players ? whether they've been here a while, players that I've given contracts to or players that have just arrived ? we've always prided ourselves on having an "Old Firm" type of mentality home and away. We had the best away record last season and we see the importance of each and every game.
"To me if any of my players are pleased with themselves going back with a nil-nil and that it's not the worst result in the world - and maybe that would be a good result at their previous clubs ? a draw feels like a defeat at Aberdeen and so it should.
"It feels a bit like that, a bit underwhelming with the whole performance.
"I thought we were safe and OK but OK doesn't get the job done.
"The forward areas needed to be giving us more.
"We needed to pass the ball quicker, we needed more intent, we needed to be more willing and we needed more quality. For us to turn that one point into three points we've got to go and ask more questions of the opposition and we didn't do that today.
"We will keep working with the players and try and get those improvements as we go along. We've got a home game next week against Ross County and hopefully we can be a bit more of what I've just said and go and put in a performance rather than just an OK one where we just get a point.
"He [Scott McKenna] slipped going into a challenge and he's felt a tear in his hamstring. You would have to say that without getting it scanned and without knowing the result of the scan on Monday that he would be a risk for next week and clearly a risk for the Scotland games."