Aberdeen 1 - 0 St Mirren: Majestic Mulgrew enlivens dull game with his late late show

Aberdeen 1 Mulgrew 88 St Mirren 0

CHARLIE Mulgrew provided further evidence that Sone Aluko is not the only outrageously gifted player at Aberdeen with the latest in a steadily increasing sequence of stunning goals from free kicks.

Sigma Olomouc and Hamilton Accies could testify to that ability having already suffered this season and St Mirren joined the list two minutes from the end of a generally uninspiring match.

Paul Gallacher, unnerved by a Mulgrew effort that cannoned off the crossbar in 74 minutes, contributed to his own downfall.

Having lined up a defensive wall, the St.Mirren goalkeeper seemed reluctant to rely on it, took a step to his right and watched the ball swerve irretrievably to his left.

His frustration was nothing compared to Lee Mair's as the defender marked his first trip back to Pittodrie since leaving Aberdeen in the summer with a red card.

Mair's first yellow was for a push on Lee Miller prior to Mulgrew's first free kick, the second was for complaining about the award of the decisive one.

The striker's intervention was hardly in the "Eduardo" class but it left St Mirren manager Gus MacPherson choosing his words carefully when assessing referee Craig Thomson.

Last week MacPherson was far from impressed with the inexperienced referees put in charge of his club recently and this time it was one of the most experienced officials who couldn't get it right either.

He said: "There is no point talking about it (the free kick for the winner]. There is no point saying our opinion on the referee's performance because he is untouchable.

"He is the top referee but in his own admission he doesn't enjoy St Mirren games. You would have to ask him that why that is as I can't answer that.

"That was his quote in a previous article with a journalist in a local newspaper.They did an article and he said he didn't enjoy doing St Mirren games."

Not that there was a lot of enjoyment to be derived from this one, with perspiration, rather than inspiration, largely the order of the day until the latter stages.

In fact most of the early interest focused on Aluko halting his relentless pursuit of air miles long enough to rescue his love affair with the Aberdeen supporters by participating in the game

Today the winger embarks on the 2,500 mile journey to Cairo to rejoin the Nigeria squad for the Under 20 World Cup with their blessings and, more crucially, those of his manager.

Compromise means both men ultimately got what they wanted in the short term, with Mark McGhee reasserting his authority over a player who clearly put country before club when departing to a training camp in Spain without permission.

His form in the season thus far has been patchy but you only need to look at the skill and technique the winger produced with a sublime volleyed goal against Celtic to see how important he is to Aberdeen.

The player, signed by previous manager Jimmy Calderwood from Birmingham City, produced some of the few moments of magic in a turgid first half, bamboozling David Barron sufficiently to earn the St.Mirren full back an early caution.

Unfortunately for the home side, the end product didn't match the nifty change of feet and direction, and on one occasion the nutmeg Barron endured in the build up.

Gallacher did excel with an instinctive save to parry a Miller header early on, created by a perfectly flighted Mulgrew free kick from the right.

Aberdeen keeper Jamie Langfield's only save of note was simplicity itself as he flopped on substitute Andy Dorman's drive deep into stoppage time.

Not a bad way to complete a fourth consecutive clean sheet in the league for the first time since David Preece held the position right at the start of the Calderwood era five years ago.

That record will come under the toughest of scrutiny at Ibrox next weekend but the all round quality improvement of a defence that conceded 11 goals in his first three games is a major plus for McGhee.

He said: "I think we squeezed a result out of it but I'm not embarrassed by winning the game, I think we deserved it.

"We have a trump card at the moment with Charlie as his left foot is a wand and any free kick around the box is like a penalty."

MAN OF THE MATCH

Charlie Mulgrew's delivery from set pieces helped lift the game.

QUICK FACT

Aberdeen have gone from losing 11 goals in their first three matches under Mark McGhee to a run of 409 minutes without conceding one.

TALKING POINT

It's not just Brazil-born Croatia internationals who make life tough for referees and St Mirren were furious with Darren Mackie when he won the decisive free kick.