Aberdeen 4 - 0 Ross County: Dons level with Celtic
Scorers: Aberdeen - Rooney 12, Pawlett 50, Logan 61, Goodwillie 85
The oil capital of Europe was the unwelcome recipient of the prize for being the most dismal town in Scotland earlier in the week but this victory made it 29 points from the last 33 available and moved them back level with Celtic, at least until the defending champions play one of their two games in hand at Firhill on Wednesday.
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Wins at Hamilton next Sunday and three points at home to St Mirren after that would give them the chance to confirm a title challenge is more than a vain hope by winning at Parkhead at the start of March.
Mind you, Ross County did ease any pressure on Aberdeen by gifting them a ridiculous goal after just 13 minutes thanks to the worst goalkeeping error of this or any season.
Antonio Reguero crouched down to take a long-distance trundler from Jonny Hayes but treated the ball like a slippery bar of soap allowing Adam Rooney to nip in to score his 21st goal of the season.
It’s hardly the start a team stranded at the foot of the table and in severe danger of relegation needed but, just as they have done on their travels lately, Ross County at least produced some obdurate resistance.
They threw bodies in the way and worked hard to disrupt their opponents attempts to play flowing, passing football which did keep further goalscoring opportunities at a premium for the rest of the first half.
The problem, as it has been all season for the Highlanders, is their chronic lack of a cutting edge when they do manage to break forward.
Even the loss of West Brom’s on-loan defender Donervorn Daniels through injury in 34 minutes caused no anxiety for the home side as Joe Shaughnessy slotted in for a first appearance since returning from his own loan spell at Falkirk.
What did trouble them was the performance of Craig Thomson, who produced a carbon copy of the refusal to play advantage that so infuriated Celtic at Hampden last week.
He covered the error by booking County left back Jamie Reckford but annoyed the home players in first-half stoppage time by waving away Shay Logan’s claims for a penalty following Tony Dingwall’s challenge. Their mood brightened considerably within six minutes of the restart as the manager’s tinkering with the line up paid dividends.
Cammy Smith struggled to make an impact in defence during the first half and was replaced by the more direct Peter Pawlett at the interval.
It was Pawlett’s speed and ingenuity that put the result beyond doubt, sprinting on to a sublime Hayes pass and taking a touch to take the ball around Reguero and a second to steer it home from an acute angle.
Right back Logan then scored with a swerving left-foot shot from the edge of the area that the hapless Reguero could only help into the net in 61 minutes.
David Goodwillie, further emphasising the strength off the bench, rounded things off in style with an angled drive five minutes from time.
Of course McInnes has assiduously avoided making extravagant claims about what they can achieve but even he kind of hinted they could do the impossible when he said: “We feel we have still got a lot to play for and we will need full concentration because we don’t want the season to finish.
“We want to keep going all the way by winning games and we feel we have a squad capable of doing that.
“If we keep winning games then we feel we have a good chance of finishing higher than we did last season.”