TWO GOALS in six minutes from Aberdeen completed their clean sweep over Inverness this season.
Scorers: Inverness Caledonian Thistle- Ofere 48; Aberdeen - McGinn 67, 73
Niall McGinn scored the goals that clinched Aberdeen’s highest league finish in 21 years and made sure his former club Celtic need to stay focused to rule out any chance of an impressive season getting any better for the Pittodrie club.
The Dons have now secured second place for the first time since Willie Miller was manager back in 1994, while cutting the defending champions’ lead at the top to five points again ahead of their match at Tannadice today.
This result certainly summed up the dogged persistance Derek McInnes’s side have shown in keeping the destination of the title alive so deep into the season. They were second best for long spells but still emerged with a result that means they have taken 58 points from the last 66 available in an unbeaten run of 22 games against teams below them in the division.
On this occasion it was McGinn who stole the limelight off Adam Rooney, scoring twice in the space of six minutes, the first with aid of a crucial deflection off David Raven to prove what a fickle game football can be. The right back wrote his name in Caley Thistle history with the winner in the Scottish Cup semi-final the previous Sunday but looked distraught when his intervention guided McGinn’s free-kick beyond Ryan Esson in 67 minutes.
Then the Northern Ireland international reacted quickest when the home defence failed to deal with Jonny Hayes’ inswinging corner to ram the loose ball home for his eighth goal of the season to confirm at least the runners-up slot.
A delighted Aberdeen manager said: “I think it’s quite significant. For all the years the club suffered, not even being in the top six, to be second an Aberdeen team has found that hard to achieve so the players should be proud of their efforts. We should feel good about our club but there’s still work to be done and 12 points to earn.”
It wasn’t the ideal end to Josh Meekings’ week. He was cleared to play in the Scottish Cup final and given the go ahead to feature against Aberdeen despite being on the SFA’s list of suspensions for yesterday’s game, issued on Thursday.
It was just another strange twist to a bizarre few days for the club in general, and the poor player in particular, as Caley Thistle officials made frantic efforts to clarify matters in the build up to kick off.
In the end they decided to show more faith in their own disciplinary records than the governing body’s as they were adamant the stopper has only had three yellow cards so far.
“Someone ran over to me before the game and asked me how many yellow cards I had and I said ‘not that many’,” revealed a bemused Meekings afterwards. “I was a bit confused when that came about but it has been a long week.”
Not that Meekings had all that much to do in the first half as the home side, utilising a fierce wind that disrupted Aberdeen’s fluency as effectively as the opposition, created by far the better chances. They also contrived to miss them, perhaps not too surprising as they had managed just seven goals in their previous seven league matches.
Marley Watkins had a quite astonshing miss from point blank range in 31 minutes after being set up by Graeme Shinnie, who will join Aberdeen in the summer. After a driving run in behind the Dons defence, Shinnie delivered a delightful cross that left Watkins with a tap in – but he miscued and sent a feeble effort into Scott Brown’s midrift.
Nick Ross had previously panicked when left one-on-one with the goalkeeper and had done likewise from 16 yards while Meekings and Gary Warren got in each other’s way when either would have scored with a header.
Of course, the Highlanders are still on course to mark their 21st year in existance with a record breaking season of their own in the league in addition to a first ever Scottish Cup final appearance. They need just three more points from their final five matches to rack up a highest ever top flight tally, which would probably be enough to clinch a third place finish for the first time.
Inverness did finally get the goal their play deserved two minutes into the second half after Watkins burst clear on the left and picked out Edward Ofere with a sweeping cross.
The former Nigeria international’s header was parried by Scott Brown but he swept the rebound home off the underside of the bar only for Aberdeen to fightback to complete a clean sweep of wins against Caley Thistle this season.
Inverness CT: Esson; Raven (Kink 87), Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Ross (Vincent 71), Tansey, Williams, Christie (Doran 71); Watkins, Ofere; Subs not used: Mackay, Devine, Tremarco, Polworth.
Aberdeen: Brown; Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine; Jack, Flood; McGinn (Daniels 90), McLean (Smith 46), Hayes; Rooney (Goodwillie 77); Subs not used: Langfield, Pawlett,Low, Shankland.
Referee: Crawford Allan. Attendance: 4,530