Aberdeen survived a frenetic finale to close out what was overall a thoroughly deserved first league win of the season, just in time for next weekend’s crucial clash at Celtic Park.
Goals from Niall McGinn and Miles Storey’s first for the club was scant reward for their overall dominance only for Partick Thistle to mount an unlikely fight back in the last few minutes that nearly rescued a point.
By then Sean Welsh had been sent off for two yellow cards in the space of seconds, first a foul on substitute Wes Burns rapidly followed by a second for over-reacting to referee John Beaton’s award and walking for dissent.
Chris Erskine then rattled in a stunning strike in stoppage time, and with even Tomas Cerny up for a corner, it took Kenny McLean to hook the ball clear and see out a win that should have been more comfortable.
“I think we knocked off in the last ten minutes when Welsh was sent off because we thought the game was done, but that was a warning that the game is never done,” said a relieved Derek McInnes afterwards.
“All in all, it was a good day’s work though and I thought there were a lot of strong performances from the team today.”
Not that it started that way for the Aberdeen manager as captain Ryan Jack was sidelined with a persistent knee problem.
That will require a scan on Monday to assess the full extent of the damage, but at the very least he seems certain to miss Saturday’s trip to Celtic Park, when the Dons go looking for their first points at the venue in 22 attempts.
The Aberdeen manager faces an anxious wait for the results, but he could be happy with the result of the game yesterday in terms of the win and what it says about the strength of the squad he has assembled.
Even without Jack and the talismanic Jonny Hayes, McInnes was able to make four changes to the side that drew with Hearts the previous Saturday without diminishing the quality of those wearing the jerseys.
They played with the same control they showed in the first half against Robbie Neilson’s team, but finally found a goal to go with that dominance of possession, even if Abdul Osman played a key role.
The Thistle skipper picked up one red and 12 yellow cards last season and it’s no exaggeration to say you could have run a sweep on what minute he would get booked here given the nature of some challenges.
It turned out to be the 28th, a reckless tackle taking down stand-in captain Graeme Shinnie and McGinn did the rest from the free-kick it brought just outside the penalty area.
The goalkeeper had no chance with that but had done more than enough to make sure Aberdeen’s fluent attacking play up to that point went unrewarded with a number of fine saves.
Not that Thistle were entirely one dimensional as they created, and squandered, at least three good chances to score themselves in the opening period.
They contributed to their own downfall, though, as Liam Lindsay dithered on the ball. Shinnie pinched it off him and set up another former Caley Thistle player, Storey, to score in 58 minutes.
The late drama only added to Thistle manager Alan Archibald’s frustration at the defeat. “I was delighted with the spirit that the boys showed, especially when they went down to ten men for the last 10 minutes and after the mistake for their second goal,” he said.
“I don’t think it was a foul for the first yellow that [Sean Welsh] got and my player said it wasn’t, which is why he was so aggrieved. But you can’t have dissent and the consequences are we lose him next week.”