AYR United boss Ian McCall has more chance of getting a pint bought for him in the Park Hotel Bar than referee Steven McLean after eight-man Kilmarnock went down to Aberdeen at Rugby Park.

As well as the three red cards he showed to the home side, the referee brandished eight yellow cards in a match that had been billed as the battle for third, as more than a few of the players took that tag a little too literally. The ground may have been bathed in sunshine, but it was a stormy old afternoon as Aberdeen eventually shaded their depleted hosts to move three points clear of them.

There was a bumper crowd in place and it was a perfect afternoon for football, but it’s just a shame no one told the players. Both sets of men weren’t exactly full of the joys of spring as they set about knocking lumps out of one another with the ball almost an incidental inconvenience.

There was never much chance of 22 players being on the pitch come the end of the match, and there probably should have been less than the 19 we ended up with. The three red cards shown to Kilmarnock players were justified enough, but it was the perception that the indiscretions of Aberdeen’s Sam Cosgrove and Dom Ball were not treated in equitable fashion that had blood vessels popping all in the home end.

Kirk Broadfoot was the first to be shown a straight red for a late lunge on Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis after 36 minutes, then with six minutes to go, Stuart Findlay joined him in the changing room after picking up a second booking for a late tackle on Graeme Shinnie, who played the role of pantomime villain on the day to a tee.

Amazingly, Killie then went down to eight men, as Ball bizarrely headed Rory McKenzie on the knee, with the home winger then shown a red card having kicked back at the Aberdeen defender.

Somewhere in-between all of that Scott McKenna had headed the only goal of the game from a Shinnie corner, but there was only one subject on the minds of the locals as the gruesome post-mortem unfolded. Of the three reds, two will be appealed.

“Broadfoot red? He played the ball, there was no malice, no violent intent, nothing,” said Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke, who filleted the official in his customary surgical, deadpan manner.

“It was two players going for the ball. Kirk’s foot clipped the top of the ball which made it look worse. No red. We’ll appeal that.

“Findlay two yellows? No complaints. Rory? The ref wasn’t looking so I can only assume it came from the fourth official. He was standing next to me and you couldn’t see it. I’ve not seen it back on video, it was almost nothing. We'll appeal that too.

“I congratulated [the referee] and told him it was the worst refereeing performance in my career - and I’ve had a long career. He lost control of a professional football match.”

There was controversy early on as Michael Devlin hauled down former Hamilton teammate Eamonn Brophy as he tried to run through on goal, in an almost carbon-copy of the incident from Pittodrie earlier in the season that saw the Aberdeen defender sent off. The greater distance to goal on this occasion perhaps saved him though, with McLean deciding that a yellow sufficed. That was the incident that lit the blue-touch paper.

The Killie fans were baying for blood as Cosgrove picked up a booking for a foul on Gary Dicker and then moments later clattered into Findlay. The challenge would surely have earned a caution had he not just received one, and there was further fury from the home end as the two players tangled when waiting on the resultant free-kick delivery only for the home defender to be shown a yellow.

When the ball eventually arrived, all hell broke loose. Broadfoot found himself all alone in behind the Aberdeen defence, but his touch took the ball too close to Lewis who collected the ball only for Broadfoot to lunge into the keeper.

The referee flashed a straight red card, leaving the home support apoplectic, but the challenge was late, high and reckless and got the punishment it deserved.

It was no surprise to see Cosgrove remain inside at the interval, teetering on the brink of a red card as he was, with James Wilson coming into the action with all the relish of a rookie wrestler gingerly clambering through the ropes of a Royal Rumble.

Stevie May then may have got confused by the name of the stadium as he lined up a free-kick 30 yards out, blazing an effort over the bar that Gavin Hastings would have been proud of in his pomp.

Aberdeen, as you may expect, had begun to dominate possession, but it took an intervention from substitute Wilson to force the issue and finally break the deadlock as his powerful run saw him win a corner off Finlay.

Shinnie swung over a perfect delivery for McKenna, who climbed above Finlay and headed the ball down and in past the despairing dive of Daniel Bachmann.

The home side tried to rally, but they were dead and buried when Findlay’s late tackle on Shinnie brought him a second yellow as the clock ticked down. There was still time for McKenzie to follow him up the tunnel before the final whistle after his altercation with Ball, and the only surprise after the game was to see Clarke’s purposeful march towards the referee after time up being ended with a few pointed words and a handshake rather than a right hook.