The numbers game caught up with Aberdeen as they suffered their first Premiership defeat of the season on Saturday.
Referee Craig Thomson was the villain of the piece in the eyes of the home side as he made a huge call early in the game which left the Dons to play 86 minutes a man down.
The red-card call effectively set the wheels in motion for Aberdeen’s defeat by Kilmarnock, with some of the official’s other decisions adding salt to the early wounds.
Defender Mikey Devlin was the man sent for an early bath after pulling back Killie’s Eamonn Brophy. There was no disputing the pull on Brophy by Devlin but the Killie player was 30 yards from goal and referee Thomson deemed the foul worthy of a straight red card. Killie, who had their appeal against Gary Dicker’s red card against Hearts rejected in the build-up to this game, were in no mood to offer sympathy.
With the Dons reeling, Brophy went close to making the extra-man advantage count for his side in a frantic spell.
Joe Lewis made one fantastic save to turn his header round the post before saving a long-range effort from the same player. Brophy then struck the crossbar from 25 yards in what was an incident packed opening period.
Thomson’s intervention in proceedings ensured the atmosphere was hostile and he continued to incur the wrath of the home support when Dons captain Graeme Shinnie was sent sprawling by Killie’s Alan Power for a similar challenge to Devlin as the midfielder ran clear of goal. The official deemed a yellow as enough punishment.
Aberdeen, to their credit, continued to push forward but it was inevitable Killie would exploit the gaps and Lewis did brilliantly to deny Chris Burke after the winger found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald was equally impressive on the half hour mark as he got his fingertips to Niall McGinn’s 25-yard free kick which was heading to the top corner.
In keeping with the game it was the intervention of the referee just before half-time which provided yet another talking point as Thomson awarded a foul on the edge of the box to Killie following Shinnie’s tackle on former Don Greg Stewart, who was making his debut for the visitors.
Shinnie was incredulous at the decision as was his manager and their mood darkened further as Brophy stepped up to fire the free kick past Lewis to give Killie an interval lead.
McInnes received a lecture from the referee for his protests.
The goal for the visitors ensured it was a difficult second half for the Dons as they chased an equaliser despite their numerical disadvantage and chances were few and far between against a well-organised Killie side.
Stevie May flashed a shot wide before Sam Cosgrove was sent on to support the Dons striker for the final half hour but Stewart secured the points for his new side when he spun way from Andy Considine before racing clear on goal and chipping the ball over Lewis into the empty net.
It was harsh on the Dons but Brophy’s opener just before the break effectively sealed Aberdeen’s fate. Killie, under a wily old tactician in Steve Clarke, used their advantage well to claim victory.
For the Dons, their defensive problems continue to deepen, with the suspended Devlin now joining Scott McKenna and Tommie Hoban on the sidelines. Of course, Mark Reynolds is crocked, too, isn’t he?
ABERDEEN – Lewis 7, Logan 6, Devlin 1, Considine 6, Lowe 6, Gleeson (Ball 6) 2, Shinnie 7, Ferguson 7, McGinn (Cosgrove 60) 6, Mackay-Steven 6, May 6 (Anderson 75). Subs not used – Cerny, Forrester, Ross, Campbell.
KILMARNOCK – MacDonald 6, O’Donnell 6, Taylor 6, Broadfoot 7, Power 6, Jones (Ndjoli 79) 6, Findlay 7, Stewart (Wilson 73) 6, Brophy 7, Tshibola (McKenzie 89) 6, Burke. Subs not used – Bachmann, S. Boyd, Waters, K. Boyd.
Referee – Craig Thomson 4.
Man of the match: Eamonn Brophy.