INSPIRED by an hour of brilliance by young Ryan Fraser before he was clugged off the pitch, Aberdeen went joint top of the SPL on points with Celtic and Hibs.
St Mirren 1: Thompson 88
Aberdeen 4: Hayes 10, McGinn 45, Clark 86, Reynolds 87
Let’s get the Ryan Fraser thing out of the way. The St Mirren fans who booed the youngster and called him a cheat were so carried away with support for their own club that they could not see, or would not see, how viciously he was being tackled. Two challenges on him by Marc McAusland in particular looked atrocious.
Yet McAusland is by no means a dirty player and correctly pointed out later that referee Steve Finnie did not penalise him for the second tackle. Aberdeen goalscorer Mark Reynolds probably called it right afterwards: “I don’t think guys are going out there intentionally to kick him. He’s that quick that guys are going in late and I don’t know what can be done to protect him. One of these days he’s not going to be so lucky and he’ll get a foot off the ground and it will be a broken leg.”
Aberdeen manager Craig Brown said: “I was surprised and disappointed to hear the boos because if any player is honest, it’s Ryan Fraser. The wee guy never ever feigns injury, he bounces up sometimes too easily. He did get a bad ankle knock there and he’ll struggle for next week’s game against Celtic.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon commented: “When home fans boo the opposition players it’s a positive negative, that he’s a good player, and I see it as a compliment.”
St Mirren bossed much of the first ten minutes, Ray Parkin rising to meet a Gary Teale cross only for his header to sclaff high over the bar.
Aberdeen promptly scored in what was their first meaningful attack, Johnny Hayes forging down the right and collecting a deflection off his own cross before thumping his left-foot shot low past Craig Samson.
St Mirren almost equalised within two minutes after Clark Robertson hacked down David van Zanten. Gary Teale’s cross was headed powerfully goalwards by Steven Thompson only for Jamie Langfield to make a wonderful instinctive one-handed save, turning the ball on to the bar.
Finnie had let a couple of early industrial tackles go, but showed the yellow card when Fraser was felled by McAusland, who was duly followed on to the naughty sheet by Chris Clark of Aberdeen, whose lunge at Teale was awful.
There was no shortage of incident to brighten up a dreich grey day for the crowd, but while there was plenty of traffic towards both goals, there were few stonewall chances.
Teale was proving to be the home side’s most effective threat with penetrating runs down the right wing.
On the half-hour mark, St Mirren won five corners in succession as the home side enjoyed sustained pressure. Aberdeen rode their luck – a couple of Langfield’s punches were leery – but kept their goal intact.
At this point St Mirren were looking odds on to get back into the game as they looked to have the momentum, but at the other end a Josh Magennis shot brought an excellent save from Sampson.
Magennis was then villain and hero, getting himself booked for a wild tackle on Paul Dummett and then hooking the resultant free-kick clear. The ball broke upfield to Fraser whose superb lateral run took the St Mirren defence out of the play. The youngster slid a perfect pass through the home defence who stood as if expecting an offside flag, allowing McGinn space and time to crash the ball high past Langfield for his seventh goal in seven SPL matches.
Though St Mirren tried manfully, Aberdeen were always on the lookout for a third. McGinn stole possession from McAusland on the edge of the box and played the ball square to the inrushing Fraser whose fierce low shot was saved by Sansom.
Hayes then sent in a right-foot curler that was again saved by Samson before Russell Anderson headed the resultant corner past the post. St Mirren began to look a bit desperate. Dougie Imrie’s dive inside the box may have fooled his own fans but not referee Finnie who somehow did not yellow card the simulator.
The match was still plentiful with excitement as St Mirren tried to come back. Teale set up Van Zanten for a long-range effort that fairly whistled goalwards before Langfield hurled himself to his right to palm the ball behind. Seconds later at the other end, Samson got down low to save well from McGinn.
The points clincher came in the 86th minute when McGinn broke down the left, fed Scott Vernon in the box and the substitute unselfishly put Clark clear on the right, the Scotland B cap smacking the ball underneath Samson.
The fourth only 90 seconds later was merely the icing on the cake, Mark Reynolds just lurking about when the ball broke to him at the edge of the box and he fired in a shot that deflected off Van Zanten.
St Mirren’s consolation goal a minute later was well taken by Thompson after good build-up play.
Having now lost five league games in a row, Lennon felt obliged to say: “We are in a difficult situation. This is a time that really identifies character, and I have great character myself and I believe in my staff, and the group of players that I have, to overcome this.”