YOU JUST don’t get many games like this anymore. Both side sides went for it, traded goals and in an age when defensive discipline is supposedly king it was a bit of a feast of attacking play.
Dundee - 2
Harkins 7; Clarkson 55 pen
Aberdeen - 3
Considine 5; McPake o.g. 28; Goodwillie 64
By the closing minutes the Dens Park stands were shuddering as both sets of supporters feverishly urged on their sides to score even more, but in one of those ironic twists it was to be a headed goal midway through the second half by a former Dundee United man – the resurgent David Goodwillie – that was to settle the contest.
A glance at the team sheets for this one was, for once, a pretty accurate pointer of what was to come with both sides seemingly packed with firepower. Aberdeen fielded an enviable triumvirate of Niall McGinn, Adam Rooney and Goodwillie up front while Dundee weren’t holding back either, with the likes of Greg Stewart, David Clarkson and Gary Harkins in their starting XI. Having taken the lead three times, the Dons manager Derek McInnes was relieved that his men finally prevailed in this 90 minute emotional roller-coaster, but was convinced they were merited winners.
“I thought it was a deserved three points,” he insisted. “It was tight and we had to fight hard for it as we expected coming here because Dundee have a good bit of know-how about them and it was a real good game. But it was great to send our 3,500 fans home happy. Once we had taken the lead again from a brilliant goal from [Goodwillie] I thought we managed the game really well”.
Right from the off this game went into overdrive, with both sides finding the back of the net in an electric opening ten minutes. Aberdeen had swarmed forward and an early free kick just outside the hosts’ penalty box looked tailor-made for Barry Robson to put Kyle Letheren to the test. It didn’t quite follow the script, with the Dons midfielder coming up short with his delivery, but when the loose ball was collected by Goodwillie he flashed over a cross which Andy Considine headed powerfully into the bottom corner of the net.
In view of the recent wobble in their form, this was probably the last thing that Dundee wanted and more than anything they needed a quick riposte. Their wish was duly granted within a couple of minutes thanks to a marvellous finish from the mercurial Harkins who, having ambled forward, unleased a simply ferocious left-foot shot which Jamie Langfield just couldn’t get close to.
It was breath-taking stuff and it remained this way almost throughout. The visitors, with Willo Flood and Robson sweeping the ball around the midfield, may have had the greater share of possession but as they burst forward at pace it was Dundee who came closest to grabbing a second at this stage. A Jim McAlister shot and Clarkson header gave Langfield more distinctly uneasy moments.
The next twist of fate was to go Aberdeen’s way, however. Having seen his fellow full-back get on the scoresheet and contributed significantly to the Dons attacking momentum down the right flank, Shay Logan decided to get in the thick of things himself. His unexpected presence in the box put pressure on the unfortunate James McPake to nod a McGinn cross into his own net.
It was as if both sides had cottoned on that this game seemly had taken a momentum of its own which defied all sound tactical advice and they just carried on slugging it out with each other. Dundee certainly weren’t sitting back and feeling sorry for themselves and Clarkson came close again just before the interval as his shot on the turn hit the base of the post. The former Motherwell striker finally got the reward his endeavours merited after the break as the hosts pummelled away at the Aberdeen defence.
When Ash Taylor brought down McAlister in the box, it was Clarkson who stepped up to drill home the resultant spot kick to once again restore parity.
It really could have gone either way or ended up about 5-5 after this, with a plethora of chances at either end. Crucially, just one of them was taken and again it was thanks to willingness of Logan to push forward that it came Aberdeen’s way. His crossed picked out Goodwillie and much to the disgust of the home fans the former United man’s header glided past Letheren.
Having seen his side put in so much effort but emerge empty handed, Dundee manager Paul Hartley, felt it right to focus on the positives of his side’s performance. “There were lots of pluses out there today and we played the game the way it should be played,” he said. “I think we showed that we’re not a bad team at all”.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Shay Logan (Aberdeen) Wonderfully composed game in both defence and helping out the Dons attack.
TALKING POINT: Five games undefeated as Aberdeen maintain impressive momentum.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 8,784
Letheren, McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Irvine, McGowan, McBride (79), McAlister, Harkins, Stewart (84), Clarkson (68) Subs used: Wighton (68), Boyle (79), MacDonald (84)
ABERDEEN: Langfield, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine, Robson, Flood, Rooney, Pawlett (88), Goodwillie (78), McGinn (90) Subs used: Low (78) Murray (88) Smith (90)