At long last the wait is over. It’s taken three months and 12 days but goals from Max Lowe and Niall McGinn’s second half double mean Aberdeen have finally won a Premiership match at Pittodrie for the first time since they defeated Hearts just before Christmas.
Now just in time for Easter they have resurrected the prospect of a sixth consecutive top three finish since Derek McInnes took over as manager and with it a sixth successive season in European football to follow.
This result also ended Motherwell’s fleeting hopes of a top six finish themselves this season after suffering what was only a third league defeat in the last 13 matches but fortune didn’t look favourably on them in general and Mark Gillespie in particular.
The Fir Park goalkeeper was at fault for conceding the opening goal but any pain felt was more literal when he was carried off on a stretcher after an accidental collision with Sam Cosgrove in the second half.
Former Airdrie goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson came off the bench for his debut but before the youngster could make a save substitute Greg Stewart’s shot was deflected into the path of McGinn to score what looked like a 70th minute winner.
Then just for good measure the Northern Ireland international made absolutely sure of their first Premiership win at Pittodrie since the visit of Hearts 102 days ago by curling a sublime third for Aberdeen in the last minute of stoppage time.
Relief as well as delight then for McInnes who had made it clear to his players in the build-up to this game that they had seven Premiership matches to salvage a season that has threatened to see them drop out of the top three for the first time since he took over as manager.
It was a message that seemed to have the desired effect early on as Aberdeen attacked with pace and intelligence on a night when teenager midfielder Dean Campbell replaced Rangers target Greg Stewart in the starting line-up.
That marked his first league start for the team and his presence allowed fellow youngster Lewis Ferguson to push further forward and provide a real threat in combination with Graeme Shinnie and Connor McLennan.
Motherwell were certainly unnerved, especially poor Gillespie who made two errors of judgement in quick succession to help the Dons overcome any early nerves with a goal after just four minutes.
First he raced out of his goal to head the ball out of play when defender Tom Aldred seemed to have the situation under control, then he could only watch in disbelief when Lowe gathered the throw-in and looped an improbable effort over the Englishman’s head from the left touchline.
The ball clipped the far post on it’s way in to the net and at that stage it looked like only a matter of time before Gillespie would be beaten again, only for Aberdeen’s old problem to reassert itself.
Shinnie, Ferguson and even top scorer Sam Cosgrove squandered decent chances to put the result beyond doubt before Motherwell could develop any sort of coherent threat of their own.
Frankly Motherwell looked devoid of ideas going forward and failed to pose a serious problem until 36 minutes, but when they did the wait proved worthwhile as they showed an incisiveness Aberdeen lacked for all their possession.
Richard Tait was the creator, spotting Hastie’s run through the middle and finding the highly rated winger with sublime defence splitting pass into the path of someone Rangers decided yesterday they were no longer interested in signing.
If Hastie was upset at that news then he didn’t show it, taking the ball in his stride. outpacing Lowe then rounding Joe Lewis before angling in his seventh goal since returning from his early season loan spell at Alloa Athletic.
It was another clear indication of why he will be playing at much higher level next season, much to the Fir Park club’s frustration as they will only receive development compensation for someone who is out of contract in the summer.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first with few clear cut chances until Gillespie’s unfortunate departure and McGinn’s alertness, which finally ended Aberdeen’s winless home run.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Ball, Considine, McKenna, Lowe, Ferguson, Shinnie, McLennan (Devlin 84), Campbell (Stewart 60), McGinn, Cosgrove. Subs not used: Cerny. Halford, Gleeson, May, Wilson.
Motherwell: Gillespie (Ferguson 68). Grimshaw, Aldred, Dunne, Tait, Campbell (Cadden 76), McHugh, Turnball, Aldred, Hastie, Main , Ariyibi (Frear 76). Subs not used: Gorrin, Sammon, Johnson, Hartley.