ABERDEEN limbered up for their Europa League qualifier in Macedonia next week in emphatic fashion, with Adam Rooney bagging a hat-trick in a demolition of Brechin City.
SCORERS: Brechin City - Jackson (33), Thomson (66); Aberdeen - Jack (7), Rooney (24, 27pen, 50 pen), Pawlett (34), Logan (43), Hayes (78), Rose (87)
In their first pre-season friendly since returning from their short summer break last Thursday, the Dons were slick, sure-footed and clinical as they made light work of their hosts, who were under the charge of Darren Dods for the first time.
It seems safe to assume that Shkendija, who finished third in the Macedonian top flight last season, will provide sterner resistance in the searing heat of Skopje next Thursday than Dods’ experimental side packed with trialists were able to muster.
In fairness, the new Glebe Park player-manager had admitted in the build-up that there was a danger the game against the second-best team in Scotland last season had come too early in the summer for his League One part-timers.
This became evident from the outset as the Dons, with Paul Quinn the only summer signing in an otherwise familiar-looking starting XI, began sharply. After Peter Pawlett had seen an early shot blocked by home keeper Paddy O’Neil, Ryan Jack opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he arced a magnificent shot from 20 yards out over the despairing keeper and into the net. David Goodwillie then tested O’Neil with a low shot from just inside the box.
Brechin were presented with a golden chance to equalise in the 15th minute when Willo Flood fouled Andy Jackson in the box, but Callum Tapping, the former Hearts midfielder, saw his penalty blocked by the legs of Aberdeen goalkeeper Scott Brown. This would have made for pleasant viewing for Gordon Marshall, who was in Glebe Park’s main stand after being confirmed prior to kick-off as Aberdeen’s new goalkeeping coach.
The Dons were soon back on the front foot and, after Goodwillie had bulleted a free header past from six yards, Jack had a goalbound shot blocked by the valiant Dods, who had pitched himself into the starting line-up at the ripe old age of 40. The Pittodrie side increased their advantage in the 23rd minute when Rooney drilled in a low, 20-yard shot after being set up by Kenny McLean. Four minutes later, Rooney, the top scorer in Scotland last season, struck again when he converted a penalty after Dods had taken out Goodwillie in the box.
Brechin hauled themselves back into the game in the 33rd minute when Jackson got in behind the away defence and slotted past the exposed Brown from the edge of the box. But, just a minute later, Aberdeen re-established their three-goal cushion when Pawlett rasped home from 12 yards out after being teed up by a square pass from Rooney. The Premiership side, playing at an impressive tempo considering they are still only a week into their pre-season, were in total command and Goodwillie struck the base of the post with a low shot from ten yards out in the 40th minute.
They only had to wait a further two minutes for their fifth goal, when Shay Logan burst forward from right-back, played the ball into Goodwillie and then planted a low shot beyond O’Neil from a tight angle after running on to the return pass.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes introduced former Inverness Caley full-back Graeme Shinnie, his other summer recruit, for the start of the second half. The scoring continued just four minutes after the restart when Rooney completed his hat-trick with another penalty after he had been fouled by substitute Adam Harwood.
The Dons eased off for a spell and Robert Thomson, another sub, pulled one back for the hosts with a close-range finish midway through the second half.
After a lull in proceedings, during a period in which several substitutions were made and Brechin’s Jordan Allan was stretchered off, Aberdeen reasserted their authority with an excellent seventh goal in the 77th minute. Shinnie burst into the danger area and pierced the Brechin defence with a perfectly-weighted through pass for Jonny Hayes, who blasted in a powerful angled shot from eight yards out. Youngster Michael Rose completed the scoring when he headed in a Barry Robson corner in the 87th minute.