Aberdeen 1 - 0 Dundee: Dons move to 3 points behind Celtic

Aberdeen's Adam Rooney (2nd from right) celebrates after scoring what would prove to be the winning goal. Picture: SNSAberdeen's Adam Rooney (2nd from right) celebrates after scoring what would prove to be the winning goal. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen's Adam Rooney (2nd from right) celebrates after scoring what would prove to be the winning goal. Picture: SNS
Friday night at Pittodrie continues to be more than just all right for Aberdeen, who made it six wins in a row when assigned this slot in the schedule.

Derek McInnes’ side were particularly desperate to collect all the points in view of their next appointment, against Celtic here in 11 days’ time.

An initially promising encounter degenerated rather scrappily on a bobbly surface in front of the live television cameras. But Aberdeen need not care about what, to them, represents only a minor complaint.

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They earned what they most required from a fiercely competitive meeting between the teams. McInnes now has the luxury of waiting to see how Celtic, whose lead at the top has now been cut to three points, fare this afternoon against St Johnstone.

The Aberdeen manager endured some nervy moments last night, however, particularly since his side were unable to add to their 14th minute opener from Adam Rooney.

An audible intake of breath from the majority of those in attendance was heard when the Tannoy announcer confirmed four minutes of added time were to be played, with Dundee seeking to take advantage of the palpable edginess.

They could not, although Gary Harkins lifted an effort over the bar at the back post in the dying moments. Had he been able to direct the ball slightly lower then the sound of referee Alan Muir’s final whistle might have generated a slightly different response to the cheers that rang out when it was finally heard.

This upbeat reaction was shot through with a measure of relief, a surprising detail given the way Aberdeen started the match. Scott Bain, the Dundee goalkeeper, kept his side in contention in this frantic spell.

Although unbeaten against Dundee in their previous nine league encounters, Aberdeen were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by the Dens men last season.

They have form for being awkward customers for Aberdeen, with Harkins, in particular, proving a thorn in their side on occasion. But it was Bain who was the source of most dismay for the home team. He pulled off a string of remarkable saves in front of the watching Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, especially in the first half when Aberdeen were, at times, rampant.

Quite incongruously, it was Ash Taylor who had most cause to rue Bain’s agility. The centre-half was denied a first half hat-trick by Bain, who pushed the defender’s header off the line just before the interval.

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It was the third time the defender was spotted with head in his hands, which underlines the danger posed by Aberdeen at set-pieces.

While there can be no question Bain kept Dundee in the game with three outstanding saves in the opening minutes, there were other signs of life from the visitors. They, too, might have opened the scoring in this engaging opening period, which seemed to anticipate so much more than eventually unfolded.

Something was delivered so far as the Aberdeen fans were concerned after 14 minutes, when their side edged ahead – as should have been the case even earlier but for Bain’s brilliance.

The goalkeeper, once at Aberdeen, was back to his best in these moments, called upon to save first from Rooney after the striker pounced on a poor header from Kevin Holt and then Taylor, when the defender tried to profit after the ball was played back in. But perhaps Bain’s finest stop came a couple of minutes later when Dundee again failed to clear their lines, allowing Taylor another glimpse at goal. His powerful effort was beaten away by Bain on the line.

It felt like only a matter of time until Aberdeen would make a breakthrough. Bain could not keep bailing out his defenders.

Jonny Hayes was the architect, as so often is the case. He battled hard to ride a couple of Dundee challenges and deserved the break of the ball he got to give him time and space to send a ball to the back post. Rooney was rewarded for his own determination when he bundled the ball over the line because he was not alone in that area. It was simply a case of him wanting it more than Paul McGinn, the Dundee right-back.

Aberdeen might have looked like they could score every time they broke forward but no one could discount Dundee’s own threat, least of all the Aberdeen defence.

Suspect at the back, Dundee at least carried more than a hint of menace in attack. A Kane Hemmings shot on the turn that was well saved by Scott Brown with his legs was their first glimpse of goal, while Harkins was inches away from connecting with a Nicky Low cut-back.

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Harkins, the current Dundee skipper following Kevin Thomson’s departure, reacted more smartly when another opportunity came his way just minutes after Aberdeen went ahead. He was, however, denied by a potentially goal-saving block from defender Andrew Considine.

Dundee were forced to endure a setback early in the second half when Holt received what looked like a bad head knock in a collision with Shay Logan, who was booked for high feet, with the Dundee fans baying for a more punitive penalty.

The left-back was withdrawn, with Dundonian Cammy Kerr sent on to deputise, which he did well. Save for a Rooney effort that was hooked off the line, Aberdeen were creating notably fewer opportunities than in the first half, when they could have scored four or five.

So long as it remained only 1-0 in favour of the hosts, a tremulous Pittodrie knew Aberdeen remained vulnerable. Rory Loy was sent on for the industrious Low, who received generous applause from fans of his old club.

Harkins stung the fingers of Brown late on and then clipped a chance over the bar at the back post. But neither goalkeeper was called on to extend himself the way Bain had in the first half. Aberdeen hung on.

Now all eyes will be on Pittodrie again on 3 February, when the top two meet. Sadly for the hosts, it is a Wednesday rather than Friday night.

ABERDEEN: Brown, Logan, Taylor, Considine, Shinnie, Hayes, Storie, McLean, McGinn, Rooney, Goodwillie (Smith 82). Subs Not Used: Robson, Pawlett, Quinn, Collin, Wright, Harvie.

DUNDEE: Bain, Holt (Kerr 51), Konrad, O’Dea, McGinn, Low (Loy 74), Ross, McGowan, Stewart, Harkins, Hemmings. Subs Not Used: Mitchell, Dryden, Gadzhalov, Curran, Wighton.