AFTER all their cup pizzazz, Aberdeen were pulled from the pedestrian by a cigarette-paper-width, inside-or-outside, penalty award.
Scorers: Aberdeen - Rooney 80 pen
When the fates are for a football team, they really can anoint them.
So it was that Eric Djemba-Djemba, in his infinite wisdom, flew at Peter Pawlett as the forward sprung towards the area with 14 minutes remaining.
The Cameroon midfielder, on a booking, maybe just wanted to create a wee bit of drama at the close of an encounter till then utterly bereft of such. Making contact – with a challenge described as “ridiculous” by his manager Danny Lennon – to send Pawlett sprawling, referee Calum Murray deemed the tackle to have been bang on the 18-yard line.
Repeated viewings of the incident, which allowed Adam Rooney to convert with aplomb to seal an 11th win in 14 games for the Pittodrie club, proved inconclusive. If pushed, it would seem that Djemba-Djemba clattered his opponent a matter of centimetres before the line. The midfielder himself was somewhat more emphatic on a moment that made for a seventh defeat in ten games for a seriously struggling St Mirren.
“It was not a penalty,” said the recently-recruited 32-year-old, the jumping-off point for a diatribe a hundred times more entertaining than the dire fare both teams had served up.
“The beginning of the tackle was outside. But I am little bit disappointed because I am experienced and I should not tackle there. I was thinking he would shoot. I said sorry in the dressing-room but they said to me ‘that’s football’. I said to the referee it was outside the box at the time and if it’s a penalty it is a red card for me because I already had a yellow. The referee was behind me so it should have been the linesman that would have to give it.”
A fair summation – which can’t be said of Lennon’s take on the game as a whole. He conceded that Djemba-Djemba’s intervention was foolhardy– “you have got to be 99 per cent sure of taking some bit of the ball to go to ground at that stage” – and described the penalty as a “big call that went against” his team. He insisted his team had given “the right performance” but achieved the “wrong result”, “dominated the individual battles“ and “nullified a high-flying Aberdeen”.
St Mirren’s first attempt on target did not arrive until the 87th minute when Jamie Langfield demonstrated alertness and agility to stick a leg out and prevent a Gregg Wylde volley, and earn him the 99th shut-out of his career in the process. The rehabilitation of the keeper this season is beginning to make his Clangers nickname take on a certain irony.
It should be said that Aberdeen didn’t exactly brim over with creativity either.
After the intensity that brought them a fifth-round Scottish Cup success over Celtic the week before, and earned them a League Cup final place with a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in their previous outing, they seemed to be on autopilot mode for much of the lunchtime confrontation.
They may have missed the injured Barry Robson and Johnny Hayes, though Nicky Low deputised well for the former. The Pittodrie club’s assistant manager, Tony Docherty, required to conduct the post-match media duties after
Derek McInnes headed off to watch cup quarter-final opponents Dumbarton beat Falkirk in the Championship, wasn’t wrong when he said the term “winning ugly” summed up how his team had claimed the three points.
He wasn’t of the belief that the visitors to Paisley yesterday could have been considered to have won lucky because of the hairline nature of the penalty. “I have seen [the incident] again and it was on the line and a decent call from the referee,” said Docherty.
“[Djemba-Djemba] has forced the referee to make a decision, although I understand Danny’s viewpoint.”
The fact his side eked out a win guaranteed that they could not be dislodged from second place in the Premiership on a day when nothing much happened for them.
“We have been away from home for five weeks on the bounce and we are digging in deep and building a momentum,” he said.
“It is important for other teams looking in to see that we are not prepared to sit back and accept a nil-nil but are out to win all three points.”
St Mirren: Kello, Newton, Kelly, McLean, McGregor, Goodwin, J McGinn, D jemba-Djemba (Teale, 84), Thompson, McGowan (Campbell, 75), Wylde.
Subs not used: Dilo, Morgan, van Zanten, Reilly, Naismith.
Booked: J Goodwin, E Djemba-Djemba
Aberdeen: Langfield, Logan, Considine, Low (Tate, 85), Anderson, Reynolds, Shaughnessy, Flood, Rooney, Pawlett, N McGinn.
Subs not used: Weaver, Zola, Vernon, Smith, McManus, Murray.
Goals: A Rooney 80 (pen).
Booked: N Low
Referee: C Murray