ADAM ROONEY’S 27th goal of the season was enough to maintain the pressure on Celtic at the top of the table as Aberdeen moved back to within five points of the defending champions.
Aberdeen - 1
Dundee United - 0
Referee: B Madden. Attendance: 12,691
It also keeps the Irishman well clear at the top of the Premiership scoring chart after becoming the first Dons striker since Duncan Shearer in 1993 to score that many in a single season.
This latest one secured a deserved victory for Derek McInnes’ side, who proved once again that they have the know-how to get the job done even when they are not performing at the very top of their game.
That was particularly evident in the last 20 minutes after being reduced to ten men when veteran midfielder Barry Robson was given a straight red card after catching Charlie Telfer with a flailing elbow.
It seemed a harsh decision as there appeared to be no malice or intent in the incident but Aberdeen showed character and professionalism to see the match out relatively comfortably.
The result guarantees European football next season, moves them a step closer to clinching second place for the first time in 21 years and means Celtic can’t afford to ease off at Dens Park on Wednesday.
The league leaders then go to Tannadice a week today looking to inflict more damage on a Dundee United side whose season has disintegrated since selling Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong to the Parkhead side in January.
Just how clear that is can be seen from the fact they were just three points behind Aberdeen in the table when they beat their north-east rivals in the League Cup semi-final at the end of January.
Now less than three months later they are a massive 22 points adrift and in danger of suffering what would be, for them, the ultimate indignity of finishing the season below city rivals Dundee.
Yesterday, United manager Jackie McNamara went with three central defenders as the latest attempt to staunch the flow of goals against, and for long spells of a first half dominated by Aberdeen it looked like working.
Unfortunately for McNamara the inevitable moment of negligence from his side duly arrived in 39 minutes. Barry Robson played in a free kick from deep that Jaroslaw Fojut thought was going out for a goal kick but Mark Reynolds certainly did not as the Aberdeen captain forced the ball back from the bye line.
Lurking to take full advantage was the country’s top predator and Rooney made no mistake to clip in his 17th league goal of an incredibily productive season for the striker.
A clearly frustrated McNamara said “A lapse in concentration has cost us and that’s why Aberdeen are second in the league just now.
“There’s wasn’t much in the match but we didn’t cause Aberdeen enough problems when they went down to ten men. That was disappointing.”
Prior to that the best opportunity had fallen to Jonny Hayes, released by a sublime Kenny McLean angled pass, with Radoslaw Cierzniak blocking the Irish midfielder’s shot. United’s only half chance of the first half came when Mario Bilate found space for an acute angled shot easily dealt with by Scott Brown and the burly front man’s afternoon got no better.
Within a minute of the restart Bilate pulled a hamstring chasing a pass down the right flank and Robbie Muirhead was given a chance to show if he could positively influence the outcome. The former Kilmarnock winger certainly gave it his best shot with an effort that at least forced Scott Brown into his only really serious action of the second half, even though United enjoyed a man advantage for the last 20 minutes.
Robson will now miss the trip to Inverness next weekend unless Aberdeen appeal the decision and McInnes is predispossed to doing that after being frustrated at the officials’ interpretation of the incident.
“I think there was a coming together but at no time did I see Barry elbow anyone” claimed McInnes. “I’ve watched it again on DVD and I don’t think there was a red card offence there.
“It’s disappointing because for me it wasn’t clear that Barry has done a lot wrong. It was a harsh decision but I don’t want it to detract from a great result.”
Aberdeen: Brown; Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine; McGinn (Jack 72), McLean, Robson, Flood (Daniels 90 ), Hayes; Rooney. Subs not used: Langfield, Shankland, Pawlett, Goodwillie.
Dundee United: Cerzniak; McGowan, Souttar, Morris, Fojut, Dixon; Butcher (Coote 74), Telfer, Erskine; Ciftci, Bilate (Muirhead 47). Subs not used: Szromnik, Spittal, Dillon, Smith, Anier.