THERE was an awful lot of huffing a puffing but, eventually, Aberdeen could gasp a sigh of relief.
Scorers: Aberdeen: Vernon 80; Wylde 90
The opening goal was one the away side had been searching for from early in the match and it gave them a win that moved them into second place in the league. But it took them until the 80th minute before they could break the deadlock.
It came courtesy of substitute Scott Vernon with a wonderful strike into the top corner of the goal. He then followed up with an assist for fellow substitute Gregg Wylde, who grabbed the second in the 90th minute to quell any frantic efforts of the home side to get back on level terms.
“I’ve scored a few decent ones but that’s probably up there,” said Vernon of his opener. “It’s always nice to see them nestle in the top corner – they always look better. But for me it was just important that we got the win and I’d be just as happy with a tap-in as with a goal like that.
“I was just as happy with the assist to be honest. I took the ball inside, saw Wyldey put the afterburners on down the outside, I managed to slip him in and it was a good finish from him. The team put in a good shift today, so it was a good way to finish it with three points.”
There were claims for a foul in the build-up to the opening goal which provoked a furious reaction from the Hibs manager Pat Fenlon. But it wasn’t really the officials he needed to rail against. This was a match where the visitors merited all three points.
Hibs had been impressive in last weekend’s showdown with defending champions Celtic, where they showed greater tenacity and commitment according to the frustrated manager, and their recent record of only one defeat in nine games had been noted, but against Aberdeen they were second best from start to finish. Not that the scoreline reflected that for most of the match.
But should anyone have expected any more from this game? Given the frequency with which these sides have cancelled each other out in meetings over the past couple of seasons, the chances of this one delivering a glut of goals were always slim.
In the last five head-to-heads in the capital, three have been goalless, the other two serving up just two goals between them.
From the opening minutes Aberdeen showed their intent, with plenty of thrust but no cut. But they were the dominant side for the vast majority of the 90 minutes, their ability to keep possession far superior to their opponents’ on the day but the fact they still couldn’t conjure up a telling final ball or a clinical finish until Vernon made his contribution worried manager Derek McInnes.
“We just kept knocking on the door,” said the delighted boss. “Just when you think it’s maybe not going to be your day, Scott Vernon comes up with an absolute top-drawer goal which was fitting to win any game and he played his part in wee Wyldey’s goal as well so all in all [it was] a very good performance.
“It was a performance that was needed to beat a decent Hibs team on decent form. They’ve got some good players and I think they have real strength in their squad but we’ve got that as well and, obviously, it showed tonight when the two substitutes came on and scored the goals that mattered.”
From the fourth minute, when Mark Reynolds had forced a stop from Hibs keeper Ben Williams, Aberdeen had tried and tried and tried again to breakthrough. Peter Pawlett, Calvin Zola, Willo Flood and Barry Robson could all have done better in front of the target but poor finishing, last-gasp blocks and a few decent saves piled on the frustration.
But Vernon helped change the game. In the 80th minute, the player who has netted five goals this term, all as a substitute, produced a beautiful finish to finally nudge the guests away and although a lapse in concentration from the experienced Robson gifted James Collins the chance to pounce on a sloppy pass-back, Jamie Langfield made it difficult for the Hibs striker and he fired his shot across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the
It stimulated a bit of a fightback from Hibs who had, until Aberdeen went ahead, looked to be simply holding out for a goalless draw.
But, when Vernon played in Wylde, he was making no mistake and gave Hibs no hope of pinching anything from the game.
“I thought Aberdeen played well and I don’t think we got anywhere near where we were against Celtic,” said Fenlon, summing up the game.
“It’s disappointing but we didn’t play anywhere near where we can so we can’t complain too much.”
They can have no complaints at all.