Aberdeen 3 - 1 Ross County: Dons fight back for victory

Aberdeen showed both why they have been struggling for positive results lately and why they led the Premiership by five points from Celtic after the first eight games of the season, all within the space of 90 minutes at Pittodrie yesterday.

Aberdeen's Niall McGinn (left) celebrates his goal. Picture: SNS

By the end of the game they had run up a comfortable-looking win against Ross County to move back to second spot, four points adrift of the defending champions, but it had seemed so different at half-time.

Another insipid performance saw Aberdeen depart the field to hoots of derision from their own ­supporters.

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But they re-emerged as a team transformed to produce glimpses of the attractive, attacking football that served them so well before the dark nights drew in.

The suspicion is that ­manager Derek McInnes must have ­channelled Sir Alex Ferguson’s paint stripping act on what was ‘Retro Day’ at the Pittodrie club, but he emerged afterwards to hand the players credit for self motivation.

He said: “I didn’t doubt the players for a minute. I knew what they have got but it was the players who earned the result and it’s the players who should take the credit. It was down to them helping themselves and they did that.

“We have stressed the importance of enjoying playing at home and the supporters are used to seeing us win at home, and I’m delighted they were able to see that again.

“There was no anger at half-time but we needed to be assertive and not to be ponderous and we were much better.”

It was certainly no surprise that McInnes chose to alter a defence that had conceded 16 goals in the previous eight games, in stark ­contrast to a paltry three in that eight-match winning run that saw them start the season so effectively.

Ever since the current manager took over he has built the club’s revival on the park on a solid backline, with Ash Taylor playing a key role for long spells, but his form has suffered more than most lately.

That’s why the former Tranmere Rovers player gave way to former Ross County captain Paul Quinn, with Andrew Considine also returning, allowing the versatile Graeme Shinnie to push back into midfield.

Not that the early signs were encouraging in terms of increased resilience as the visitors played as high a line as possible, pressing in groups which lead to some nervous, indecisive play from the Dons.

Craig Curran shot the Highlanders into the lead in 13 minutes after Liam Boyce advanced rapidly on goal ­having dispossessed Mark ­Reynolds on the halfway line.

The Northern Ireland international played Curran through in the inside right channel and although he appeared to take the ball too wide, he showed real skill to beat Danny Ward from an acute angle.

More unusually, Aberdeen showed a real lack of ingenuity going ­forward with only a couple of wickedly curling free kicks from Niall McGinn causing any anxiety for the County defence in the first half.

Adam Rooney was unable to make the most of the two half chances that fell his way as a result, while a sharp save by Gary Woods denied Considine the chance to bundle in a rebound after a rare penetrating run from Jonny Hayes.

The quickest run came from McInnes himself at the interval as he sprinted up the tunnel to maximise his time for trying to change things for his players, who left the pitch to a crescendo of boos from their supporters.

It was certainly time well spent as within eight minutes of the restart those jeers turned to cheers as Aberdeen suddenly looked like the team that impressed so much in the first two months of the campaign.

They resumed at a much higher tempo and scored a stunning leveller thanks to a brilliant bit of improvisation from McGinn, who left Marcus Fraser beaten and embarrassed by an audacious dummy.

He then raced clear down the left touchline before bending a cross to the far post that Rooney was only ever going to lash into the roof of the net from eight yards for his tenth goal of the season.

Two minutes later it was Hayes causing the problems down the left even if there was a bit of good fortune about the way his chip to the back post dipped into the net beyond the reach of a bemused Gary Woods.

McGinn topped off a great performance with the third goal as County were exposed down the left again. Kenny McLean cut the ball back for McGinn to drill home from just inside the box.

County manager Jim McIntyre said: “We won our battles and did the ugly side of the game well in the first half but it flipped in the second. The goals we gave away were poor, especially the first one which we should have dealt with better.”