Aberdeen 1-0 Motherwell: Hayes strikes early goal

ABERDEEN’S players and manager diplomatically rejected suggestions of revenge as a motivating factor in the build-up to this game, but the way they celebrated this victory was much more revealing.

Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes gives his side the lead. Picture: SNS

Scorer: Aberdeen - Hayes (2)

There could never be any doubt of their lingering desire for retribution against a Motherwell side who denied them runners-up spot in the league with virtually the last kick of last season.

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Revenue, holidays and pride were all lost when Craig Reid scored the Fir Park team’s injury-time winner at Pittodrie last May but Jonny Hayes’ early opener was enough to heap more misery on the current Fir Park side.

It was actually a harder win than it should have been against a team that created very few chances but Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes will be especially pleased with he clean sheet his side managed after defensive problems of their own lately.

For Motherwell, there was simply disappointment at a venue where they hadn’t lost a game in nine previous visits, dating back to November 2008 when Jimmy Calderwood was still in charge of Aberdeen.

They have now taken just four points from the last ten matches which is their worst run in the league since Terry Butcher was manager 11 years ago.

That was the season when they finished bottom of the division but were saved from relegation because the state of Falkirk’s former ground, Brockville, prevented them being promoted.

There will be no such salvation possible should the Fir Park side end up in the bottom two this season which must be a more realistic possibility than repeating last season’s second-place finish on current evidence.

Of course this match only marked the completion of the first set of fixtures and there is still a long way to go, but even McCall has admitted to genuine concern at how things are progressing.

Meanwhile, Jamie Langfield was dropped from the Aberdeen starting line-up with Scott Brown making his league debut.

Adam Rooney kept the goalkeeper company on the substitutes’ bench at the start as McInnes chose to break up the partnership with David Goodwillie.

McCall made four changes to the side beaten at home by Dundee with Steven Hammell’s return from injury seeming the most significant as he went into a recast back three.

It was a ploy that almost immediately came unstuck as Aberdeen hit the front with barely two minutes on the clock and thanks to more dreadful Motherwell defending.

Goodwillie threaded a pass to Jonny Hayes in the inside-right channel and the Irishman burst clear of the new backline far too easily before finishing with an adroit shot across Dan Twardzik.

Hayes’ pace and penetration from deep were a constant concern to the Steelmen and another enterprising run climaxed with a shot that landed on the roof of the net.

The Premiership strugglers certainly couldn’t be faulted for effort as they threw themselves into tackles all over the field and actually caused a few moments of anxiety themselves as the half progressed , particularly from set pieces as Brown got a chance to empathise with the man from whom he took over in goal when it came to attempting to cope with the intimidating presence of Sutton.

That was especially the case when the pair went up for a Josh Law corner as Brown ended up dropping the ball only for Stephen McManus to hook it over the crossbar.

Simon Ramsden then did likewise with a header from the edge of the six-yard box when he really should have taken full advantage of more Law precision.

It was Aberdeen who created, then squandered, the best chances the longer the game progressed though, as Niall McGinn in particular looked sharp in the second half.

He set up a good opportunity for Shay Logan, but the full back’s shot lacked the power needed to count while Goodwillie and Ryan Jack collided with each other going for the former Celtic winger’s cross.

Goodwillie then steered a shot wide after the ball bounced into his path off Mark Reynolds while Motherwell finally forced Brown into serious save with 15 minutes left.

Ironically it was Craig Reid who did it with a long-range effort, but the Aberdeen goalkeeper dealt comfortably with the drive as the home side held on for the win they deserved.

Aberdeen: Brown, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine, Flood, Jack, McGinn, Pawlett (Rooney 61), Hayes (Smith 83), Goodwillie (Robson 73). Subs not used: Langfield, Rose, Monakana, Smith, Shankland.

Motherwell: Twardzik, Reid, Ramsden, McManus, Hammell, Kerr (Ainsworth 83), Lasley, Law (Erwin 74), Francis-Angol, Sutton, Ojamaa (McHugh 74).

Subs not used: Nielsen, Careswell, O’Brien, Leitch.

Referee: Crawford Allan.