Two of Aberdeen’s young stars shone brightest at Rugby Park to illuminate what threatened to be a dismal afternoon for the Dons against Kilmarnock.
Bruce Anderson and Lewis Ferguson made decisive interventions in the game’s dwindling moments to turn this encounter on its head, after Kris Boyd’s first-half penalty had looked like handing the hosts all three points.
Anderson’s goal came with the Dons’ first shot on target of the afternoon and a week after his heroics against Rangers at Hampden Park, Ferguson popped up again to turn match-winner in a smash-and-grab raid by Derek McInnes’ side.
The Dons made one change from the 3-0 win over Hamilton, dropping Scott Wright and bringing Dominic Ball into midfield. It matched up with Killie playing three across the middle, with both sides putting the onus on their wide players to supply balls for the lone striker.
Ferguson was given greater license to play closer to Wilson, with Ball sitting deeper alongside Graeme Shinnie, but in the early knockings of the game the Manchester United loanee was left chasing hopeful long balls. Killie too were playing direct with marginally more success, picking out Boyd for flick-ons and knock-downs for his midfielders.
The home side had the best chances of the first period with Boyd heading a Stephen O’Donnell cross wide when he should have hit the target before O’Donnell fizzed a ball across the face of goal. The Scotland full-back timed his runs well and played a key role in Killie taking the lead.
O’Donnell had been allowed to run unchecked to meet Jordan Jones’ cross, with Joe Lewis parrying his shot well. However, as the ball appeared to be heading out of play, Shay Logan inexplicably bundled over Chris Burke.
Boyd buried the resulting penalty and lapped up the chance to wind up the travelling fans.
Stevie May was called up at half-time in Ball’s place, in an attempt to give greater support to Wilson, but save for Ferguson and Shinnie, Killie’s greater intensity was giving them control.
Since the departures of Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie in the summer, probably Aberdeen’s two most creative players last season, there appears to have been a tilt towards the Dons being a more industrious, pragmatic opponent. Rather than taking the impetus in games, as they did with that duo in the line-up, they now favour a solidity-first approach and getting the ball back-to-front as quick as possible. The effectiveness of that approach is open to debate.
Their equaliser came out of nothing with Anderson diverting Niall McGinn’s shot past a wrong-footed MacDonald. The fact he produced more in five minutes than Wilson did in 68 was telling. His contribution as a substitute, not just in this game but this season, has to merit a start soon.
The conclusion of the game will have left many Killie supporters wondering how they had not won it, as Ferguson whipped home a low free-kick to again steal the headlines.