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Kilmarnock 1 Aberdeen 3: Ryan Fraser's stock is rising at Pittodrie but winger will not allow his confidence to boil over

ASK Aberdeen supporters what Darren Mackie's legacy at the club is and the chances are the reactions will be mixed.

Gavin Rae equalised for Aberdeen, making the most of a mistake. Picture: SNS
Gavin Rae equalised for Aberdeen, making the most of a mistake. Picture: SNS

Some will point to the header against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk that earned the club a place in the group stages of the Europa League five years ago, the less charitable to his role in a succession of knockout humiliations during his 14-year spell at Pittodrie. Few, though, would credit the divisive attacker with helping nurture the most exciting talent that the club has produced in several years.

Saturday's victory over Kilmarnock might only have been Ryan Fraser's 15th first-team appearance, and just his eighth start, but the diminutive winger has already established himself as an indispensable member of Craig Brown's XI. That he is keeping Jonny Hayes out of the team and was named Clydesdale Bank Young Player of the Month for September is indicative of his impact; something the 18-year-old attributes to Mackie. "He taught me a lot," said Fraser, speaking on the club website, last week. "Not just about football but life in general, how to take all the pressure, how to keep my feet on the ground. I do not want to get big time, that is the worst thing that can happen to you."

On the evidence of Saturday, he has not let a stellar September go to his head. Fraser was terrific, his sleight of foot and speed of mind causing all manner of problems for the Rugby Park side, with only Aberdeen's first-half profligacy limiting him to a solitary assist. Stocky, explosive and capable of crossing a ball with either foot, he is a rare talent.

"He can have a good career, a really good one, actually," captain Russell Anderson said. "We've had a few good young players here over the years but in terms of a winger with the pace and trickery to take players on, he is as good as any."

With such talent, though, comes a reputation and the consequent targeting by other teams. In his 10 appearances this term, 10 players have been booked and another dismissed for infringements against Fraser, with some of the treatment so severe that his manager has called for greater protection.

He might only stand 5ft 4in, but there is a doughtiness about the winger, who was left in a crumpled heap on a few occasions on Saturday even if Brown rightly described Kilmarnock as among the more restrained opponents.

Ryan O'Leary and Liam Kelly were both booked for clumsy, rather than malicious, fouls on Fraser and Anderson understands how it can happen. "It's not always intentional, it's just he's too quick and I know that from personal experience in training," the defender said. "In fact, I think it is a testament to him that he is getting fouled so many times in a game because it shows that he is a threat."

That he was dangerous is without doubt, but Kenny Shiels reacted angrily to suggestions that his side's attempts to stop Fraser would give him cause him to cringe. The Kilmarnock manager had insisted his team would not resort to such tactics and they were as good as his word, but the clumsy goading led the Northern Irishman to question the treatment meted out to James Dayton, one his own players, by Aberdeen.

Granted, Dayton was subject to a few robust challenges from Ryan Jack but of more concern to Shiels might be the manner in which his side performed. Two or three players, he said, were not at their best and certainly Kilmarnock were a shadow of the team that performed so impressively at Tynecastle the previous weekend. Their defending was sloppy, they allowed themselves to be outmatched at times in midfield, and, as a result, offered little in attack.

"This is a hard, hard league and the goals we conceded killed us," admitted captain Manuel Pascali, who was cheered throughout by a noisy pocket of friends from Italy. "We knew they were a team with pace who are maybe more comfortable away from home but we did not deal with that. We had great momentum after a couple of wins but we have to start again."

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