St Johnstone 1-2 Aberdeen: Scoreline flatters Saints as Dons prosper in Perth
WITHOUT A win, or even a goal, in their opening two matches, Aberdeen came good on both fronts yesterday with a result, and a performance, that was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
Isaac Osbourne and Jonny Hayes grabbed the goals that gave Craig Brown’s side all three points, but it doesn’t begin to reflect their domination of a match in which St Johnstone were almost embarrassed to claim a late consolation.
There was a stroke of luck about the incident that led to Aberdeen’s second, but they could have scored four or five, with Scott Vernon particularly unfortunate not to join in the fun. He had two ‘goals’ ruled out for offside, and another effort handled by an opponent, but they will come for the Aberdeen striker, especially if Ryan Fraser, a wee winger with a big heart, keeps playing like this. The youngster’s crosses caused St Johnstone all sorts of bother, as Brown acknowledged later. “I don’t want to build him up too much, but he is one of our brightest young players,” said the manager. “He is a modest lad, who doesn’t know how good he is.”
Steve Lomas knows how bad St Johnstone were. This was their 12th match without a win, if you include the end of last season. Already depleted by suspension and injury, they lost Murray Davidson and Chris Millar leaving their manager to conclude that his squad is not strong enough. “Everybody knows we over-achieved last season,” he said. “We have lost 12 and brought in eight. You don’t need to be Carol Vorderman to do the maths.”
It was billed as a “blue and white flag day” in Perth, but the flags were in short supply, thanks partly to the killjoys at Tayside Police, and the crowd was notable more for its healthy contingent of Aberdeen fans, among them Paul Lawrie, who sat with his son in the main stand. As usual, more is expected of Aberdeen this season, especially now that there is an adventurous dimension to their squad. With Niall McGinn injured, Hayes was expected to provide the X-factor lacking last year, but it was another, less-heralded player who caught the eye.
Fraser, a diminutive 18-year-old winger, took the game to his opponents from the start, and succeeded in repeatedly confusing his marker with a blur of legs, before nipping past him and knocking in a devilish cross. That was how Aberdeen took the lead, although questions had to be asked of the St Johnstone defence. When Fraser’s ball skidded into space at the back post, Osbourne had time to pick his spot before swiping it low past Alan Mannus.
St Johnstone looked hopelessly out of sorts. Without Gregory Tade and Rowan Vine – both suspended – as well as new signing Craig Beattie – who was ill through the week – their advances hinged around Sean Higgins, as yet unproven with the Perth club. And the decision to play Liam Craig wide on the right, with Nigel Hasselbaink on the other flank, did nothing for their balance. Wright was at the centre of another mistake, this time much worse, early in the second half. As Mannus came out to smother a long ball, Wright was unconvinced that his goalkeeper would get there before a striker, and sought to dribble clear. In the resulting confusion, Hayes collected possession and slipped the ball into an empty net.
In the period that followed, Aberdeen were rampant. Poor Vernon must wonder how he did not add his name to the scoresheet. First, there was a chance at the back post, after Russell Anderson’s flick, but he was ruled offside. Then he hit the net with a powerful header from a cross by Osbourne, only to find the flag up again. By the time his conversion of Fraser’s cross, with a cute glance off his forehead, was also ruled out for the same reason, the Aberdeen striker must have been ready to throttle the assistant referee. To make matters worse, when a shot by Hayes came off the post, Vernon’s attempt at the rebound appeared to strike Dave Mackay’s hand. No penalty, said the referee.
St Johnstone were a shambles in the second half but got themselves a lifeline they didn’t deserve when Hasselbaink found the net. If Anderson had equalised with his late header, it would have been nothing short of criminal.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West