This piece is an extract from yesterday's The Rugby Road Gates newsletter, which is emailed out at 6pm every Wednesday. To receive our full, free Kilmarnock newsletter straight to your email inbox, click here.

It’s the hope that kills you, eh? The 1,500-strong Killie support who travelled up to Aberdeen on Saturday certainly had that in abundance. But it was more than just that – there was a genuine expectation that the team was going to win. That’s a credit to the players and the work Derek McInnes has put in this season. My god though, they picked quite the time to put in their worst performance in several months.

My overriding takeaway from Pittodrie is that it was a huge missed opportunity. It’s highly unlikely that Aberdeen, Hibernian or even Rangers and Celtic will be as poor next season as they’ve displayed at various points throughout this campaign. That said, Aberdeen still have some very good players in their squad. Bojan Miovski will move to one of Europe’s top five leagues in the near future, Jamie McGrath is an established Republic of Ireland international and as much as plenty of folk won’t care to admit it, Graeme Shinnie is a guy you’d love in your team. However, with the quarter-final loss, it does feel like the club has let what could’ve been a realistic chance to win a trophy pass it by.

While I’ve highlighted some of the talents Aberdeen has in its ranks, Killie can’t point the finger anywhere else before looking in the mirror on a poor afternoon in the north east. As promised in my mission statement for this newsletter way back at the beginning of October, I will always try to take a positive slant, looking with a glass-half-full mentality. What I do pride myself in though, is balance. So, while I’ve been very praise-worthy of the players and the manager this season, especially since early December, it’s only fair to address what was ultimately a failure on Saturday.

Matty Kennedy has been the best player at the club during the period of an upward trajectory, so his absence was felt dearly. This resulted in a change of shape with David Watson coming in to make it a three-man midfield, and Corrie Ndaba playing at wing-back. It just didn’t work and it was pretty clear early doors that after taking a few minutes to settle Aberdeen were enjoying the better of the ball. It’s not like they were especially outplaying us, but uncharacteristically of this Killie team, they were outfought by the hosts.

READ MORE: The highs & lows of Derek McInnes' 100 games at Killie

Killian Phillips wreaked havoc for a good portion of the day. This was purely because he put himself about and didn’t give any of our defenders a minute. En route to the stadium, I was laughing with my brother about Junior Hoilett’s inclusion in the Dons line-up – how that came back to bite me. The 33-year-old had a fantastic game. Time and time again, whether it be Danny Armstrong, Joe Wright, Lewis Mayo, or anyone else for that matter, he would draw them in and then skip past with ease. He showed his quality, for sure, but it was getting predictable what he was going to try by the time the second half came along, so it was disappointing that the third and final goal came from down that side yet again.

The defence didn’t cover themselves in glory for any of their goals really. Stuart Findlay got caught under the ball at the first, with neither Mayo or Ndaba able to help bail him out before Will Dennis should’ve done better to parry away the danger. For Shinnie’s, yes it was a decent hit and it took a deflection, but generally speaking, the full team just seemed very slow and sluggish to react to the throw-in. It was far too easy for Hoilett and Jack MacKenzie to play on the left side before the ball eventually found its way into the box. And then the third is a combination of poor covering in the right back area and bad luck with the hefty deflection taking the ball into the net.

The only bit of quality from Killie all day came from Kyle Vassell and Armstrong. Watson and Liam Polworth deserve some credit for sweeping up the play and keeping pressure on the Dons backline, but it was all about Vass’ lovely step-over and stood-up cross to the back post for Danny to hit on the half-volley. A well-worked goal by our two best players on the day. It’s incredibly frustrating that the boys weren’t able to build on it, though, and take some confidence from the strike. If anything, the second half was worse than the first, which is unusual after grabbing a goal from nowhere right before the break.

Kevin van Veen’s situation is a concern, but hopefully, something that can be nipped in the bud this weekend with some game time against St Mirren. It’s another important match as Killie looks to regain fourth spot from the Paisley outfit, who will arrive in a buoyant mood. Win and we can feel optimistic about European football. On the flip side, losing would be a huge setback regarding those ambitions.