Derek McInnes refused to indulge in talk that Aberdeen can win the Scottish Premiership after they became the first non-Old Firm side in 23 years to sit at the top of the league beyond the turn of the year.
Yesterday’s 2-0 win over St Johnstone at Pittodrie took the Dons a point clear of Celtic, who do not play again until Monday, when they visit Kilmarnock. The champions’ scheduled evening kick-off against Partick Thistle at Firhill yesterday fell victim to a waterlogged pitch, allowing the Dons to overhaul them.
Outwith Rangers and Celtic, no Scottish club has occupied such lofty status this deep into a campaign since Hearts led the way at the same stage in 1992 before eventually finishing second to the Ibrox side.
The Dons have the chance to stay top until at least the middle of January if they can win at Motherwell this Sunday, although manager McInnes was not rash enough to make any public statements about taking the title to Pittodrie for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s side did it 30 years ago this May.
He said: “I’m not concerned about putting pressure on Celtic. The players and I are just looking ahead to the next game and I think that’s a brilliant thing to have. When you’re winning, the next game can’t come quickly enough. It’s a great feeling to be top of the league, I can’t deny that. We said it was all about the three points but that extra bit of motivation to go top was something the players recognised.
“We mentioned it before the game and in their performance they showed how important it was for them to go top. We showed what we’re capable of.”
David Goodwillie sent the Dons on their way with a spectacular overhead kick for his first goal in 11 matches before Cammy Smith smashed in a second in injury time to end St Johnstone’s hopes of a club record sixth-successive top-flight win. Remarkably, Aberdeen are not the only side taking a challenge to Celtic, with the top five teams in the league separated by only five points. Dundee United, Hamilton Accies and Inverness Caledonian Thistle all kept themselves in the mix with comprehensive derby wins yesterday.
United romped to a 6-2 win at home to Dundee. It was the first time the Tannadice side had scored six in a Dundee derby, leaving manager Jackie McNamara delighted. “To win against your biggest rivals is great first and foremost but with that scoreline and the manner in which we won it’s obviously even better,” he said.
Hamilton thrashed Motherwell 5-0 at New Douglas Park to record their heaviest win over their Lanarkshire rivals for 80 years. Accies sit only four points off the top of the table and player-manager Alex Neil said: “It doesn’t get much better, but then I said that after the 4-0 game [against Motherwell in September].
“It’s probably as complete a performance as I have seen us put in.”
Fifth-place Inverness kept up their challenge with a 3-1 win away to Highland rivals Ross County. Kilmarnock moved within two points of the top six courtesy of a 2-1 win at St Mirren.