Rooney 24; Logan 40; Hayes 59
Inverness Caley Thistle2
Meekings 16; Watkins 50
The Irishman was the latest Aberdeen player to benefit from the intelligent and incisive play of David Goodwillie during an exciting clash at Pittodrie and Derek McInnes is entitled to feel particularly pleased with the form of someone he signed for free in the summer as the former Dundee United player has contributed hugely to the Dons’ improved home form.
They managed just 21 goals at Pittodrie in the whole of last season and this hard-fought win made it ten spread over eight productive days since Goodwillie was paired with Adam Rooney.
All that was lacking was a goal to reward an impressive performance and the delighted Aberdeen manager said: “He was unfortunate not to get one because he was excellent today. He worked hard and showed real intelligence in the way he set up Shay Logan’s goal as plenty would have panicked in the situation. Good decision making is as important a quality as any in that area and in David and Adam we have that calmness you need.”
McInnes made one enforced change to the side that thumped Livingston in the League Cup last Tuesday with Ryan Jack sidelined for at least a month after suffering medial ligament damage in that 4-0 win. It’s another measure of the strength of squad the Aberdeen manager has assembled that the young midfielder’s replacement was the veteran Barry Robson.
The former Scotland international’s legs might not move as quickly nowadays but his football brain is as sharp as ever as he proved from a set piece in 11 minutes. Mark Reynolds was picked out by one of his well flighted free kicks from deep and set up Goodwillie for a spectacular overhead kick that sped into the net. Unfortunately for Aberdeen in general, and the striker in particular, Reynolds had strayed into an offside position in the build-up, ruling the effort invalid.
There was further frustration to follow after a dazzling run from inside his own half saw Peter Pawlett finally foiled by a desperate combination block by Josh Meekings and Gary Warren deep inside the Caley Thistle penalty area.
It was threatening to be one of those afternoons for the Dons when Caley Thistle then hit the front with what looked like a preventable goal from a set piece of their own.
Greg Tansey whipped in a wicked ball from a free kick wide right and Josh Meekings was left in splendid isolation to head in his first ever goal for the club after 17 minutes.
If anything, that merely brought a greater attacking intensity to Aberdeen’s play with Goodwillie unlucky not to equalise after a delightful chest trap created shooting chance that Dean Brill smothered.
Ironic then, that when the leveller did finally arrive midway through the opening period it was courtesy of a terrible misjudgment from the normally reliable Gary Warren. The Caley Thistle centre back tried to find Brill with a header but failed to spot a lurking Adam Rooney who exploited the error by rounding the goalkeeper to score. It was his 11th goal of the season and the fifth of a highly productive week where he has quickly formed an effective partnership with Goodwillie. That was never clearer than when Aberdeen edged in front, largely thanks to clever, unselfish play from the former Scotland international.
Hayes swapped passes with Pawlett down the left, then picked out Goodwillie in the penalty area where he was quickly closed down by three defenders. That’s where the real touch of class came in when he held the ball up, assessed the options then rolled a perfect pass for the supporting Logan to arrow a shot into the top right-hand corner of Brill’s net.
Logan then turned provider at the start of the second half although unfortunately for the right back it was an assist for an equaliser after miscuing a tackle near his own goal.
Marley Watkins gratefully accepted the opportunity, showing a delicacy of touch to left the ball over Jamie Langfield as the Aberdeen goalkeeper raced out in a futile attempt to rescue the situation.
It was strange to see so many errors at the back as both sides have a reputation for giving little away, but the decisive moment also stemmed from defensive slackness.
This time it was Ross Draper who gifted possession to Goodwillie whose shot was parried by Brill into the path of Hayes who clipped in the winner.