The Dons closed the gap on Celtic slightly this afternoon and increased their lead over third place Inverness CT after a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock. The visitors dominated most of the first half and scored with a well worked free kick on 40 minutes. McGinn swung the ball in, Daniels, back in the side today, flicked it on and Rooney was on hand to score goal number 26 of the season. That goal meant that Adam has now scored against every team in the SPFL Premiership this season- a remarkable achievement.
At the start of the second half though, Killie scored when Slater picked the ball up unmarked and he produced a great finish. After that the game could have gone either way. Aberdeen had plenty of possession but a well organised Kilmarnock side were proving tough to break down. However on 70 minutes Niall McGinn once again produced a piece of real quality. He swung in a superb cross and from close range Cammy Smith bulleted a header home. Niall has had more assists in Scotland than any other player. Aberdeen didn't really looked in total control this afternoon and in the 90th minute a clearance looped up in the air and when Brown came for it he was adjudged to have fouled Lee Miller. The keeper though made amends by saving the penalty from Slater. The win means Aberdeen have now equalled last season's points tally with six games still to go.
Derek McInnes made three changes to the side which beat Inverness CT in midweek. Daniels came in for Taylor, McLean replaced Robson and Smith came in for Pawlett. So Aberdeen lined up with Brown in goal, Logan at right back, Daniels and Reynolds in central defence, Considine at left back, McLean and Flood were the central midfielders with Hayes wide left, McGinn wide right and Smith played just in behind Rooney.
After defeating Inverness CT in midweek and stretching the gap between 2nd and 3rd to 11 points The Dons headed to Kilmarnock looking to not only tighten their grip on second place but also to cut the gap on league leaders Celtic after their 1-1 draw in the Highland capital 24 hours prior to the Rugby Park clash.
The manager had stated that he wanted some rain on the artificial surface to make it slicker, he certainly got that with a torrential downpour all morning although when the game kicked off the sun had come out. The surface was certainly to the Dons liking in the early stages and they settled into the match comfortably. McGinn was Killie's main tormentor firing a number of dangerous crosses into the box from the right. The first of those crosses came in just the third minute when the winger drilled a ball across goal, Rooney made contact but couldn't direct it towards goal. Killie's first real threat came in the fifth minute when Eremenko's corner was met by two Kilmarnock players just six yards from goal, fortunately for The Dons they both got in each other's way and the ball ended up over the bar. Just minutes later McGinn found Rooney in the box again, this time the front man got a bit more on the ball but his header ended up just wide of the post. Killie full back O'Hara had to look alert a couple of minutes later to turn another cross behind at the back post with Andrew Considine closing in.
Samson had to make his first save of the match in the 15th minute when Smith managed to fire a shot on target from 12 yards after pinball in the Killie area. Cammy, who was picking up some good areas, did not quite catch the shot as well as he would have liked with his left foot. The Dons youngster then tried his luck from long range a few minutes later but it sailed over the crossbar.
Aberdeen were well on top at this stage with Flood controlling proceedings in the middle of the park.
However in the 24th minute Killie countered Aberdeen at pace with Flood finding himself isolated at the back against Obadeyi, the winger attempted to bypass Flood and race clear on goal but was adjudged to have fouled Flood, a decision which infuriated the home support.
After just 30 minutes Aberdeen won corner number of seven of the match after Ashcroft sliced a near post cross from Hayes behind, the delivery was a good one but Killie defended well and got the ball clear. The manager made a tactical change with Hayes and McGinn swapped wings.
It was at this stage in the game that the Killie middle three of Clingan, Slater and Eremenko started to string some passes together but The Dons were able to keep much of the good passing at arm's length. In the 35th minute Killie were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from goal, Johnston's delivery into the box was met by Obadeyi but he had committed a foul to take the pressure off the visitors. In the 38th minute Killie's Finnish playmaker managed to get the ball into an area where Killie could hurt The Dons with another delightful pass but Magennis and Obadeyi hesitated and that allowed Logan to take control of the situation and clear.
Up the other end Aberdeen were awarded a free-kick of their own 30 yards from goal, McGinn produced yet another great cross and this time Daniels directed the ball towards goal for Rooney to head the ball over the line for his 26h goal of the season. It was a pre-rehearsed move that worked perfectly.
That goal ensured that The Dons went into the half time interval in front, on the balance of play it was a deserved lead.
The Dons only held the lead for a couple of minutes in the second half after Slater found the net from 25 yards to equalise. It was a great strike after patient build-up play and that strike gave the home side an immediate burst of confidence which almost saw Johnston fire Kilmarnock into the lead just moments later, thankfully his strike ended up just wide of the post.
Aberdeen were determined to bounce back quickly and were unfortunate not to go in front in the 50th minute when Hayes did brilliantly down the left before firing the ball at the near post only to see it deflected over by Syme. Hayes then tested Samson with a 25 yard strike in the next passage of play but the Killie stopper did well to turn it round the post. The game was now wide open and it was the hosts turn to threaten, this time Magennis found himself in a wide area with room to cross, his delivery was met by Johnston but he couldn't direct the ball towards goal.
A determined run from Cammy Smith won The Dons a corner in the 58th minute, Killie managed to clear but it wasn't convincing. From the resulting throw-in a long delivery from Considine was also cleared for a corner but again it was after some unorthodox defending from the home side.
Just after the hour mark Johnston found space wide on the right and floated in a cross for Magennis to attack, the former Don attacked it well and forced Brown into action. It was a comfortable save but the warning signs were there for Aberdeen.
Aberdeen enjoyed plenty of possession over the next 10 minutes but were unable to force a save of note from Samson. Logan got the better of Westlake on more than one occasion during this period but was unable to find a red shirt with the final ball.
On the 69th minute McLean found McGinn with a searching diagonal ball and the winger produced a moment of real quality again when he picked out Smith in the box with a cross, the youngster was only a few yards out but he made no mistake with a bullet header to fire his side back in front.
That goal forced the home side into some changes and they replaced their playmaker Eremenko and winger Obadeyi with Miller and McKenzie. Miller joined Magennis up front which hinted at a more direct style of play as the home side tried to salvage something from the game. Willo Flood followed up an impressive display against Inverness in midweek with a great shift yet again and he fully earned his applause from the Red Army when he was replaced by Jack in the 75th minute.
The direct running of Johnston was a constant threat for The Dons and he was unfortunate not to hit the target after cutting inside to strike in the 78th minute, his effort ended up over the bar but it was evidence that Killie weren't out of the match.
Derek McInnes made his second change of the game in the 83rd minute replacing the goalscorer Cammy Smith with Peter Pawlett. Cammy has had to be patient this season and he will have been delighted to get on the score sheet and he can be well pleased with his overall performance.
With two strikes already on the field the home side made their final substitution of the match throwing on Eccleston to replace Clingan. This substitution would obviously leave Killie short at the back and in the 87th minute they were almost punished but Jack couldn't direct a strike from 25 yards on target. Aberdeen also had a couple of other half breaks where they should have done better. Rooney then left the field to be replaced by Shankland. With three strikers now on the park Killie started to batter the ball towards the Aberdeen goal at any opportunity.
In the 90th minute a high ball in the box was partially cleared by Daniels, the ball looped up in the air and as Brown went for it, Lee Miller used all his experience to get in front of the Dons keeper and the ref had no choice but to point to the spot. At this stage in the game it looked as though two points would be dropped but Brown saved Slater's penalty to secure all three points. It was a good save but a poor penalty. The miss deflated the home side and the Dons were able to see the game out. Considine almost added a third in stoppage time after intercepting a pass deep in the Killie half and charging towards goal but Samson did well to tip his strike over the bar.