Aberdeen 3 – 0 Hamilton: Dons keep up pressure on Celtic

Aberdeen's Greame Shinnie and Ash Taylor at full-time. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen's Greame Shinnie and Ash Taylor at full-time. Picture: SNS
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Ronny Deila has claimed that Celtic need to stay focused on the run-in to a fifth successive title as Aberdeen are capable of winning all their matches until the end of the season and, on this form, the Parkhead club’s manager knows what he’s talking about.

Scorers: Aberdeen – Church (5), McGinn (15), McLean (33)

The Dons produced a dazzling attacking performance in response to the defending champions’ victory against Hearts the previous day as they cut the deficit at the top to just four points again.

Celtic can extend that again at Dens Park tomorrow when they play their game in hand but, on this evidence, Aberdeen are not going to simply slip away – although they will have to prove that when they meet tougher opposition at Tynecastle on Friday.

It is a venue where they have been one of only two away teams to win in the Premiership this season and a repeat of the intensity they showed here, along with considerable skill, right from the off could spark a repeat.

They are unlikely to come up against such accommodating opposition as they did yesterday, though, and, without the continued excellence of Michael McGovern in the Hamilton goal, it could have been a cricket score.

Canning made five changes to the team that lost to Partick Thistle before the international break a fortnight ago but it was a decision that backfired horribly on the Hamilton Accies manager as they played like strangers from the off.

For example, Kemy Agustien was given a first start and Brighton’s on-loan midfielder would have been relieved to go off injured after just 38 minutes having had a chasing appearance, not that he was alone in that.

His only impact in that time was to pick up a yellow card as he and his team-mates were left chasing shadows by an Aberdeen side in a hurry to show Celtic that the defending champions still have work to do to.

The Dons were in simply stunning form from the off and the match was effectively over as a contest when they swept into a two-goal lead within the first 15 minutes with the only surprise being that the lead wasn’t even more emphatic by then.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes talked in the build-up to the match about how much of a boost everyone at Pittodrie received with the number of players involved for their respective countries during the international break.

That was certainly reflected at the sharp end as they produced arguably their most dominant attacking performance of the season, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland caps claiming the first-half goals.

Accies goalkeeper McGovern will be in Michael O’Neill’s squad for the European Championships in the summer and showed why with a series of impressive saves but he must be sick of the sight of Simon Church.

The striker on loan from MK Dons scored a late penalty leveller against him for Wales ten days ago and, just four minutes in, he was swooping to head the Scottish Dons into the lead with his fifth goal in nine matches.

It was down to the persistence of Jonny Hayes in the wake of his first two caps for the Republic of Ireland, dispossessing the hapless Antons Kurakins before sweeping over the cross that got the treatment it deserved.

In 15 minutes, Aberdeen were given a gift that they barely needed as Ziggy Gordon and McGovern did a bit of “after you Claude” and Niall McGinn, another certainty for a place in France with Northern Ireland, nipped in to score.

By then Kenny McLean had clipped the outside of a post and forced McGovern into another fine stop from someone linked with a move to Pittodrie, but the man who earned his first Scotland cap in the win against the Czech Republic would not be denied.

Hayes was involved again, freeing Graeme Shinnie down the left and the full-back’s cross was swept into the net by the former St Mirren midfielder for his eighth goal of the season in 33 minutes.

Aberdeen were in devastating form with excellent movement, pace and penetration allied to crisp passing that must have had their struggling opponents fearing a repeat of that 8-1 thumping at Celtic Park in January.

The chances of that diminished in a second half when the Hamilton players worked harder to close down the opposition but a failure to score more than one goal in a game since 2 January shows it was futile hoping to rescue more than a bit of pride.

It’s two wins in 16 games now for Accies and that lack of goals leaves them vulnerable when it comes to being dragged down deeper into relegation trouble, with just a match at home to Dundee before the split now.

ABERDEEN: Brown, Logan, Taylor (Considine 46), Reynolds, Shinnie, Hayes, Jack (Ross 85), Flood (Storie 78), McGinn, McLean, Church. Subs not used: Smith, Collin, McKenna, Wright.

HAMILTON ACCIES: McGovern, Gordon, Devlin, Garcia Tena, Kurakins, MacKinnon, Agustien (Redmond 39), Imrie (Kurtaj 81), Crawford, Docherty, Diaby (Brophy 66). Subs not used: D’Acol, Martin, Boyd, Want.

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