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Football: DON'T TOUCH THAT DAHL!; A Killie blow to Skov's future.

Byline: IAN BURNS at PITTODRIE

ABERDEEN 1 KILMARNOCK 2

EBBE SKOVDAHL wore the look of a man walking to the gallows last night after Aberdeen slumped to a defeat that wrecked their hopes of claiming a top-half place.

The Danish boss has been handed an ultimatum to get into the elite half-dozen by the winter break - or forget any chance of negotiating a new deal as Dons manager.

But the familiar defensive blunders killed off any lingering hopes that he could steer his side to that target.

The Aberdeen players found themselves trying to fight back from two goals down for the second week in a row.

The previous Saturday they hauled Motherwell's advantage back at the death, but Kilmarnock are an entirely different proposition and nowadays Bobby Williamson's men are genuine challengers for Europe.

Williamson can look forward to the future, but Skovdahl won't be making any long-term plans after a result that leaves the Dons with just one win at Pittodrie all season.

Dundee United are the visitors next weekend and failure in that game would be the last straw for the Aberdeen supporters who booed their team off at the end of yesterday's match.

Chairman Stewart Milne won't begin contract talks until the new year, but the search for a successor to the Dane will now begin - with former players Eric Black and Jocky Scott top of the list.

The match turned on 60 seconds of madness in the first half and try as they might, the Dons were unable to recover from the self-inflicted blows

Killie were badly hit by injuries but the introduction of Jim Fowler for Ally Mitchell just after the half-hour mark had a dramatic effect on proceedings.

Until his arrival there had been little between the two sides but within five minutes Fowler turned a cross from Craig Drago on to Andy McLaren and the winger steered a low drive from 14 yards past keeper Ryan Esson.

Before the Dons had the chance to reorganise Killie struck again, with former Raith star Dargo involved.

He released a defence-splitting pass for Fowler to race through the middle unchallenged and beat Esson with a precise drive.

The home fans, despite being admitted at cut price, let their frustrations be known and the Dons seemed on the way to another defeat until they pulled a controversial goal back.

Just before half time Darren Young's shot-cum-cross found Arild Stavrum with space and time and the Norwegian scrambled the ball in at the back post.

But Killie were incensed at the goal, claiming that Stavrum was offside when he received the pass. McLaren was booked for protesting too forcibly to ref Kenny Clark.

The goal threw the desperate Dons a lifeline and they used it to inch their way back into the game in the second half.

But their strike force was repeatedly caught offside by Killie's alert defence and several promising attacks broke down.

Under-pressure Skovdahl threw on Derek Young for his older brother Darren, who had injured a wrist.

Aberdeen could not be faulted for their effort but they lacked the finesse to unlock Killie's stubborn defence and to make matters worse Phil McGuire was stretchered off.

The defender injured himself with a terrible tackle on Peter Canero that also earned the stopper a booking for his trouble before he was carted off in agony.

It was the final ignominy, and the jeers which rang out at the finish from the frustrated Red Army must have sounded a death knell for Skovdahl's job.

ABERDEEN: Esson 6, Rowson 5, McGuire (wdrn) 5, Solberg 5, McNaughton 6, Guntveit (wdrn) 5, *Jess 6, Darren Young (wdrn) 6, Winters 6, Di Rocco 6, *STAVRUM 6. Subs: McAllister 5,Mayer 5, Derek Young 5.

KILMARNOCK: Marshall 7, Canero 6 Baker 6, Hessey 6, Hay 6, *McLAREN 7, Mahood 6, Reilly 6, Mitchell (wdrn) 6, Dargo (wdrn) 6. Subs: Fowler 7, Vareille 6.

CAPTION(S):

MAC'S THE WAY: McLaren (centre) celebrates the opener; HANDY ANDY: Kilmarnock's Andy McLaren volleys the ball into the net to open the scoring for the visitors YOU BOOTY: Aberdeen midfielder Darren Young puts his boot in first to prevent another Kilmarnock attack
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2000
Words:696
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