ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes was delighted to see his team treat his most celebrated predecessor to a victory with some real quality goals after previously failing to live up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent praise.
Long-range strikes from Peter Pawlett and Niall McGinn earned Aberdeen a 2-0 victory over in-form St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Ferguson was a guest of the home club to mark the 50th anniversary of his hat-trick for the Saints in a 3-2 win over Rangers at Ibrox.
Ferguson had praised the work done by McInnes and talked up Aberdeen’s chances of winning the Scottish Cup when he helped carry out the fourth-round draw last month, but the Dons then suffered consecutive defeats to Hearts and Celtic. However, they got back on track with a cup win at Partick Thistle last weekend and they were worthy of their win in Perth.
Saints had started on the front foot but Pawlett, who had a loan spell in Perth last season, fired into the bottom corner from 25 yards in the 17th minute after Barry Robson dispossessed Chris Millar. Jamie Langfield saved brilliantly from Stevie May before the break but Aberdeen otherwise protected their goalkeeper and any doubt about the destination of the points ended when former Dons striker Rory Fallon was sent off in the 71st minute for an elbow on Michael Hector, only a minute after coming off the bench.
McGinn then curled home a majestic strike with five minutes left to ensure Ferguson witnessed an Aberdeen win. McInnes said: “The quality of goals and the quality of the defending was pretty good as well.
“The pitch was a bit fiery and the game a bit too frantic at times but I’m just pleased we have won, especially in front of him [Sir Alex], because the last time he spoke highly of us, at the Scottish Cup draw, we never won for two games. So it was good to see us winning.”
The clean sheet was Aberdeen’s 11th of the season and McInnes was full of praise for skipper Russell Anderson, who largely nullified the threat of May and Nigel Hasselbaink. “I don’t like singling people out but I thought he was outstanding,” McInnes said. “His level of performance has been that way for the majority of the season. His concentration, his aggression, all his qualities were fantastic.”
Saints manager Tommy Wright felt there was little in the game and refused to be downbeat over only their second league defeat at McDiarmid Park in 2013. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We are having a good season, we have had two defeats in the league, we are still in the top six.
“We know we can quite easily go on a run of four or five wins, as do a lot of teams in this league. I am pleased at the effort we put in.
“The back four and Murray Davidson were magnificent and they didn’t deserve to lose that game and lose it the way they did.”