The game at Pittodrie was, in many respects, a template for how both of these sides have fared this season, as Craig Fowler writes
Aberdeen rely on Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn to create
If both of Aberdeen’s wide men struggle, chances are they aren’t winning. It’s just as well for the club they are two of the better players in the league, meaning they are on their game more often than not.
Last night was no different. McGinn was a little quiet in terms of running at the opposition, but his deliveries into the box caused Dundee no end of problems. While Hayes managed to combine both the directness and guile into a performance that was picked out by commentary analyser Chris Sutton.
Adam Rooney converts the chances
It was the third time this season Aberdeen won by a single goal with Rooney netting the winner. When the striker scores the Dons usually win. They’ve lost only one game all season when Rooney has scored - the 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park when he got a late consolation.
While that underlines the qualities of the striker, it also highlights the ongoing reliance on him to score. It also ties into what I’ve said about McGinn and Hayes. Rooney struggles to create his own opportunities and requires good service to thrive.
Dundee struggle to defend cross balls
Ok, this may be something new we’ve learned, as they’ve never quite looked as troublesome at dealing with crosses as they did last night. However, a look at the team should have told you everything you needed to know.
Neither of Darren O’Dea and Thomas Konrad are dominant in the air. James McPake can often get his side into trouble by over committing to high balls, leaving a great, big gap in behind when he doesn’t win it. However, the injured centre back represents the back-line’s strongest aerial presence, and they’ll miss him greatly. Good centre back partnerships should have one proactive and one reactive defender - someone who takes charge of a potential threat while the other waits for things to develop. Dundee are now left with two of the latter.
Dundee are starved of creativity without Gary Harkins
The midfielder played last night but it wasn’t one of his better nights. He was involved heavily in a first half when things wouldn’t break for him - a bobble that went the wrong way here, an errant pass from a team-mate there - before dropping out of the contest after the break.
Dundee have changed up their system in the last six weeks to accommodate Harkins, giving him a high responsibility role at the No.10 position. They have since demonstrated their faith further by entrusting him with the captain’s armband.
Now in a 4-2-3-1 with the workmanlike Nicky Low on the right and the predatory Kane Hemmings up top, Harkins represents the side’s best instigator, especially with Greg Stewart still not at his best. When Aberdeen shut him down, Dundee couldn’t do anything further forward and it’s no coincidence the chance in injury time, after they finally started to apply some pressure, came his way.
David Goodwillie is a shell of his former self
Chris Sutton alluded to this last night when he talked about Goodwillie’s low confidence. It’s at such depths that it’s completely messing with his technique. He looks awkward when he’s trying to shoot, as if he’s thinking too much about it and not letting it come naturally. He’s scored only two goals this season, both in the same half at Tynecastle, of all places, and on last night’s evidence that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Scott Bain is one of the league’s best
There are no real comedy goalkeepers in the Scottish top flight, but there are a lot of mediocre ones, and Bain is someone who sticks out from above that crowd.
He’s young and still has the odd mistake in him, as we saw in last week’s win at Partick Thistle, but only Jamie McDonald and Craig Gordon have made eye-catching, acrobatic saves with more regularity than Dundee’s number one, and he denied Ash Taylor on three separate occasions to keep his side in the match.