THERE is a long pause from Andy Considine after he is asked the inevitable question. Aberdeen’s victory against Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday was so comfortable that it seemed reasonable to enquire whether he felt the Dons could break free of the pack and challenge Celtic for the Scottish Premiership title.
Dundee Unitd 0-2 Aberdeen
Scorer: Aberdeen - Rooney (19, 33)
“Mmmm,” starts Considine. “Erm,” adds the defender before finally caving in. “We’ll give it our best shot. That’s all I can say. We give them good games. When we play against them, it goes to the wire. So I don’t see why not. We’ve got nothing to lose. Why not try and take them to the wire? It would be fantastic, but our concentration is on getting top three, top four.”
If talk of catching the reigning champions sounds disrespectful to the rest, remember that second-placed Inverness were thrashed by Partick Thistle on Saturday. Dundee United, who had won three games on the bounce, came up well short against Aberdeen, who seem to be finding strength and consistency as they approach the turn of the year.
Derek McInnes has led his team to victory in six of their last eight games. In the other two, they performed well, only to concede last-minute winners. Their latest three points arrived courtesy of two goals by Adam Rooney in a rampant first-half display that enabled them to join third-placed United on 31 points, just one behind Inverness.
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It was not so much the outcome of Saturday’s performance as the quality of it that caught the eye. In that one-sided first half, they unsettled United with a high-tempo pressing game, hit the woodwork twice and could easily have led by more than Rooney’s two tap-ins.
The first came in the 19th minute when Radoslaw Cierzniak fumbled David Goodwillie’s header, allowing Rooney to pounce on the loose ball. The second, 14 minutes later, was set up by Considine, who tried to shoot at the back post, but managed only to pick out his team-mate in the six-yard area. For the 17th time this season, Rooney converted.
“It would be great if he could hit mid-20s,” said Considine. “That would be fantastic. I don’t think there have been too many strikers at Aberdeen who have managed that. Not for a while anyway. He’s been great since he first put on an Aberdeen shirt. It just shows you some of the quality balls that get flung in from the likes of Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn. It all helps.”
Suddenly, Aberdeen are a handful. Rooney is their top scorer, but several others also look dangerous. McGinn had an early shot deflected on to the crossbar before crashing another off the inside of a post. In the second half, when the visitors were content merely to manage the game, Goodwillie and Peter Pawlett each had opportunities to score on the break. “With the firepower we have, the likes of Goodwillie, Adam up there, Niall, Jonny, Pete [Pawlett]… we should be scoring goals,” says Considine. “They score tons in training. After winning 3-0 last week [against Hamilton], and getting another couple this week… hopefully it’s going to start falling into place.”
On the opening day of the season, United won 3-0 at Pittodrie, which made this one all the sweeter for Aberdeen. In front of a large and typically noisy travelling support, they restricted their hosts to just one clear chance, a shot by Chris Erskine that Scott Brown, the goalkeeper, blocked with his body.
Considine, who is in his testimonial year, says this is the best Aberdeen side he has known since he made his debut for them over ten years ago. He enjoyed the team that reached the Europa League round of 32 seven years back, but he is a regular in this one, and he likes the way its younger members, such as Pawlett and Ryan Jack, are growing with it. After winning the League Cup last season, reaching the Scottish Cup semi-finals and finishing third in the league, Aberdeen seemed to be handicapped by expectation in the early part of this campaign. Six European matches before they had even started their domestic commitments probably didn’t help.
Now, they are back in the groove, sharing third place, threatening second, and who knows what after that? “We just need to have a good festive period, like last year,” says Considine. “That’s what we’re after. We’ve got our tails up a little bit.
“Hopefully, we can go into Christmas and New Year, and by the time we next play Celtic [21 February], we’re up the top of the league.”
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