NICKY Low’s early free-kick proved decisive as Aberdeen consigned second-bottom Ross County to a ninth defeat in ten games.
Scorer: Low (2)
The Dons dominated large periods of the game but were largely kept at bay by a visiting side that set out to stifle rather than attack their hosts.
Aberdeen shuffled their pack following the Boxing Day defeat at home to Motherwell as they welcoming Mark Reynolds back into the fold in place of Russell Anderson, while Low came into the side for Barry Robson.
County employed Marc Klok to counteract the threat of Peter Pawlett in behind Scott Vernon, one of four changes to the side that had lost 2-0 to Hibs on Boxing Day. Steven Saunders, Alex Cooper and Orhan Mustafi also came in.
The Dons were on the front foot from the off, and took the lead within two minutes. Vernon was sent crashing to the ground by Stuart Kettlewell 20 yards from goal, and Low stepped up to curl the free-kick past Michael Fraser at the near post, the ball nicking the upright on its way in.
Derek McInnes’ side should have been further ahead ten minutes later. Pawlett’s run into the box was tracked by Klok, but the Dutchman tripped the Dons forward, and referee Calum Murray pointed to the penalty spot. Vernon stepped up and went high to Fraser’s right, but the former Motherwell goalkeeper threw himself across to push the ball around the post.
It seemed only a matter of time before Aberdeen would extend their lead, and only a last-ditch challenge from Ben Gordon denied Vernon after 19 minutes. Klok had escaped censure for the foul which led to the penalty, but he became the first player booked for a foul on Pawlett in midfield after 25 minutes.
County had a penalty claim of their own ten minutes from the interval. Alex Cooper’s cross was blocked and a shout for handball went up but referee Murray was unmoved by the call. The visitors could have shot themselves in the foot on the stroke of half-time. Niall McGinn danced by Saunders and sent in a low cross which Fraser looked to have covered, only for Scott Boyd to attempt an interception and turn the ball off the outside of his own post.
County, for whom Cooper was booked for a needless midfield foul, were presented an opening when Michael Hector took the legs away from Klok after 66 minutes, but they failed to take advantage as Graham Carey’s struck his 22-yard free-kick into the wall.
The closing stages were marked by a number of substitutions which failed to improve the flow of the game, although with two minutes remaining Boyd’s tug on Magennis allowed the ever-dangerous McGinn to send a free-kick wide of the target.
Aberdeen: Langfield, Shaughnessy, Hector, Reynolds, Low, Pawlett (Smith 77),Flood, Jack (Robson 73),Hayes, Vernon (Magennis 84),McGinn. Subs not used: Anderson, Wylde, Weaver, Shankland.
Ross County: Fraser, Saunders (De Leeuw 66), Boyd, McLean, Gordon, Brittain, Cooper (Maatsen 80), Kettlewell, Klok, Carey, Mustafi (Glen 46). Subs not used: Brown, Micic, Quinn, Luck