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Kilmarnock 0 - 1 Aberdeen

HT Score: Kilmarnock 0 - 0 Aberdeen

Aberdeen scorers: McNaughton 80.

05/03/2005 | KO: 15:00

McNaughton strike bags the points for reds

Aberdeen virtually clinched a top six place today at Rugby Park when a Kevin McNaughton strike earned the Dons all three points and a third league win in a row. The home side enjoyed the best of the opening forty-five minutes and would have been ahead had Ryan Esson not stopped a soft penalty award in the 44th minute. Aberdeen looked much better after the break and Kevin McNaughton hit a sweet left foot shot from 20 yards to grab the win. This result now takes Aberdeen to within two points of Hibs in third place with the Edinburgh club due to face Celtic tomorrow and head to Pittodrie next week.

Aberdeen kicked off in a 3-5-2 formation with Hart, Anderson and Byrne forming the back three. Kris Boyd was lucky to avoid a yellow card in the 2nd minute for a deliberate handball as both sides looked to settle. The home side carved out the first chance of the game in the 7th minute when Boyd found Johnston in the centre and the Killie man fired the ball over the bar. A minute later there was danger when Severin's back header fell short and Hart was forced to steer the ball back to Esson with his thigh. John Stewart forced himself forward in the 10th minute but wasted the opportunity with a poor shot. Two minutes later there was more good play from Stewart but McNaughton failed to deliver the ball into the danger area.

Severin was in the thick of everything and looked as though he had never been away as Aberdeen started to ease themselves into the game. Scott Morrison tested Smith with a fierce free kick in the 14th minute that had the keeper scrambling the ball round the post. Seconds later there was a loud appeal for a penalty kick when one of the Killie defenders blocked the ball with his arm, but Hugh Dallas ignored the claims. The home side won their first corner of the match in the 18th minute that Aberdeen cleared. They should have done better with the resulting break, but delayed and wasted the opportunity. Kilmarnock again gained the upper hand and a second corner in the 22nd minute had Esson flapping at the ball before Severin managed to clear.

A mistake from Byrne in the 26th almost allowed Nish in before Severin managed to clear then two minutes later McDonald fired over the Dons were forced on to the back foot. In the 29th minute Esson was forced to save as Invincible fired in a low shot to the near post. On the half hour mark Kilmarnock won a free kick when Morrison brought a Kilmarnock attack to an illegal halt and earned himself the first yellow card of the match. The wall did its job then Hay hit the loose ball over the bar. The home side were now dominating the match as Aberdeen struggled to retain any possession. A mix up at the back in the 35th minute allowed Stewart to nip in but his effort was scooped over the bar.

With three minutes remaining Anderson made an error that almost allowed Nish and Boyd in. Fortunately he managed to get back and scramble the ball clear as the ball refused sit up for either striker. With a minute of the half remaining Invincible won another corner and Esson spilled the ball. Byrne appeared to play the ball and upend Nish on the follow through aring. The award looked soft and Esson saw justice done when he made a great save from Boyd's effort. Aberdeen then broke up field and Smith was called into action as Severin fired in the last shot of the half.

Kilmarnock maintained the upper hand at the start of the second half with the Dons relying mainly on the break. The Dons went close in the 53rd minute as Hart burst forward and fired a dangerous cross into the area that was scrambled clear by the defence. A minute later both Stewart and Clark had chances inside the box but couldn't capitalise. Aberdeen then had a period of pressure before a foul from Winter brought some relief to the home defence. Kilmarnock recovered and forced a corner in the 63rd minute that saw McDonald fire over as both sides looked for an opener. At the other end Hart fired in another dangerous cross that was headed clear.

Two minutes later Severin found some space and unleashed an effort that went just over the bar. In the 68th minute Invincible was given plenty of space inside the Dons back but fortunately he drove the ball wide with Esson screaming at his defence. The home side had come back into the game again but in truth neither side were producing much in the way of quality football. Severin went close in the 72nd minute when a fierce shot was deflected inches wide of the goal with Smith beaten. Calderwood then replaced Stewart with Craig and he almost made a dramatic start when his first shot was blocked. Two minutes later Foster replaced Winter as Calderwood looked to change things around.

In the 79th minute Craig stepped forward and hit a decent shot that was finger tipped away by Smith then a minute later Aberdeen grabbed the lead. Kevin McNaughton made a great run forward before hitting a sweet left foot shot from 20 yards that sailed into the net. Three minutes later Morrison had a header deflected wide for a corner then a second appeal for hand ball was denied before the move was halted by another debatable offside decision against Darren Mackie. Kilmarnock stepped up the effort to try and grab an equaliser and with two minutes remaining Muirhead replaced Mackie as the Dons tried to consolidate their position. In the final minute Foster conceded a free kick 20 yards out but the wall once again held firm. Clark should have wrapped up the points in injury time when Muirhead found him in the box but Smith made a great save. It mattered little in the end as Aberdeen held on comfortably to win.

Kilmarnock Teamsheet
Smith, Fowler, Lilley, Hay, Ford, Invincible, Johnston, Leven, Nish (Dargo 75), McDonald, Boyd (Naismith  74) Unused Subs:
Aberdeen Teamsheet
Esson, Morrison, Byrne, McNaughton, Anderson, Hart, Winter (Foster 74), Severin, Mackie (Muirhead 88), Stewart (Craig 72), Clark.

Unused Subs: Considine, Paatelainen, Paatelainen, Ilic.

Bookings:  Morrison (30).
Attendance: 5,181
Venue: Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
Referee: Hugh Dallas, Motherwell
Jamie Winter challenges for possesion at Rugby Park today.
Darren Mackie makes a challenge this afternoon.
Ryan Esson saves Boyds penalty in the 44th minute.
Kevin McNaughton fires in the winning goal...
...and is then mobbed by his team mates.
Darren Mackie in the thick of the action in today's win at Kilmarnock.
John Stewart tries to make a breakthrough.