PATIENCE is something Aberdeen fans have needed in abundance during two decades of unfulfilled promise and it is serving them well now.
Derek McInnes' side have begun the new year with two away victories in succession and in both it has taken until late in the game for the advantage to be secured.
If Mark Reynolds' header here after 83 minutes was not quite as late on as Peter Pawlett's injury-time winner at Tannadice in their previous match, it was late enough to keep the large travelling support in suspense until the closing stages.
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The wait would prove to be worthwhile, as Aberdeen took advantage of Motherwell's inactivity this weekend to move up to second in the SPFL Premiership table, this their seventh win from their last eight matches. The winning goal was probably just about merited given Aberdeen's superiority in the second half.
Kilmarnock, curiously, after competing well in the first period, began to sit increasingly deeper after the interval, inviting their opponents on to them. Both managers later cited the strong wind as a factor in the hosts' gradual retreat but, regardless, Aberdeen were not slow to take advantage. There was almost a sense of inevitability about the visitors belatedly moving in front given that they had twice been denied in the preceding moments by terrific stops from Craig Samson.
Niall McGinn was the first to be thwarted, the forward fastening on to Peter Pawlett's cutback only for Samson to keep out his shot from close range. The pair swapped roles minutes later, McGinn this time setting up Pawlett whose shot was again expertly repelled by the goalkeeper. Aberdeen would not give up, however, and from the resultant corner, Reynolds leapt highest to nod McGinn's delivery beyond Samson. It was testament to the power of perseverance.
"We've had a lot of late winners and there are a lot of reasons for that: fitness, desire, energy and perseverance," said McInnes. "The players never settle for anything other than trying to win the game, regardless of whether we're playing home or away. That's pleasing for me."
The only black spot on an otherwise positive afternoon for Aberdeen was the red card shown late in the game to substitute Nicky Low for clattering into Sean Clohessy. His manager, though, felt the player had been unlucky. "That was really harsh," added McInnes, who remains hopeful a deal can be done with Reading to bring Michael Hector back for the rest of the season. "He's overran the ball and in his enthusiasm to make up for it he's slipped and lost his footing. It was just youthful exuberance and thankfully it didn't cost us."
The defeat puts a dent in Kilmarnock's recent good run of form after winning three of their previous four matches. Victories over the weekend for Ross County and Partick Thistle mean the relegation play-off place remains a live issue for Allan Johnston's side, although they also still retain realistic designs on breaking into the top six prior to the league split. Kilmarnock's main quibble here was the decision to penalise Kris Boyd for what looked a soft foul on Russell Anderson early in the game. The striker would have been in on goal had referee Craig Charleston not halted play, something Johnston felt was a turning point in the match.
"If you're going to give free kicks for that you're going to be stopping play every two seconds," he said. "Boydy's just simply outmuscled him and it's a great finish after that.
"It's a big moment and the referees have to get those decisions right."
Naturally, McInnes saw it differently. "That's a foul every day of the week," he added. "If Kris goes with his shoulder and Russell falls down that's different. But there was an arm on his back as well."
Given both teams shared a mindset to attack, it was a surprise that it took so long for the breakthrough to arrive. Kilmarnock enjoyed marginal territorial superiority in the first half but it was Aberdeen who came closest to scoring. Barry Robson surprised Jeroen Tesselaar - and a few others inside the ground - by moving on to his right foot and swinging in a tempting cross from wide on the right flank. Ryan Jack rose highest to head goalwards only for the ball to strike the crossbar and drop down, from Aberdeen's perspective, on the wrong side of the line.
Most of Kilmarnock's attacks centred, unsurprisingly, on Boyd, the striker enjoying something of a renaissance of late. He had another chance shortly after the Anderson incident when he, fairly, dispossessed Willo Flood only to be denied that time by Jamie Langfield.
Kilmarnock's best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Chris Johnston. Clohessy's deep cross arrived at the winger's feet via a touch from Hector but, seemingly in two minds, Johnston could only scoop his shot high over the crossbar.
Aberdeen dominated the second half but it was Kilmarnock who first threatened through a pair of Sammy Clingan free kicks that Langfield dealt with relatively comfortably, pushing one around the post and the other over his bar. Samson was similarly obdurate until Aberdeen finally wore him down. It is becoming something of a useful habit.