Aberdeen 1-0 Motherwell: James Wilson’s flash of quality is the difference

James Wilson wheels away after opening his account for Aberdeen. Picture: SNS Group
James Wilson wheels away after opening his account for Aberdeen. Picture: SNS Group
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Everyone at Pittodrie has been salivating at the prospect of what James Wilson would do to opposition defences when he’s fully fit, and Manchester United’s on-loan striker took just six minutes to justify their excitement.​

That’s how long Wilson needed to score the only goal of a largely insipid match as he gave a glimpse of the skills that promised so much when he first burst onto the scene in the English Premier League with a double against Hull City in 2014.

Louis van Gaal was sufficiently impressed with the player’s potential that he sanctioned a £30,000-a-week, four-year contract for him when the Dutchman was in charge at Old Trafford, but it’s fair to say that’s been more of a burden on the field since. Loan spells since at Brighton, Derby County and Sheffield United haven’t exactly gone according to plan but the flash of quality shown here holds plenty of promise for the rest of the season.​

Wilson’s pace and intelligence saw him ease in to space in the inside left channel and when Niall McGinn picked the perfect pass it was given the perfect finish with a sweet left foot shot beyond Trevor Carson.​

That was a relief for someone who has waited a month to recover from injury to make a start for the Dons, and apparently just as satisfying as the pair he hit on that impressive Old Trafford debut, but he has reasons for not losing sight of the fact that it is just a new beginning.​

“I like my home debuts as I’ve scored a few in them down the years and I am happy to keep that going here,” said Wilson. “I scored against Hull City on my Old Trafford debut and on my debuts for Brighton and for Sheffield United as well.​

“That felt just as good today and any time that the ball hits the back of the net it feels incredible. I’ve been here for a few weeks now and it’s been frustrating not to play but I’ve had a few good days training now.”​

Wilson and his admirers will be hoping he can repeat the trick in Tuesday’s Betfred Cup tie at Easter Road and at Celtic Park on Saturday, but Aberdeen will have to play with more overall attacking fluency to achieve that significant double.

They enjoyed a lot of possession yesterday, but apart from a Niall McGinn free-kick that wasn’t quite as accurate as the one he scored with at Perth last week, a Gary Mackay-Steven scuffed shot that Carson fumbled wide and substitute Bruce Anderson squandering a chance after being put through, they rarely looked like adding a second.​

That was partly because Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes fought fire-with-fire in terms of combating Motherwell’s aggressive style on a day when Connor Sammon started while Curtis Main was attending the birth of his daughter Milana.

Carl McHugh did hit a long-range shot off the junction of bar and post in the first half while substitute Chris Cadden forced Joe Lewis into a last-minute save, but it was largely mundane stuff apart from the usual controversial refereeing decision.

Motherwell winger Elliott Frear was rightly booked for diving when attempting to con Nick Walsh into awarding a late penalty but he had every right to feel aggrieved not to get one in the first half when Andy Considine seemed to catch his foot in the box.

Of course Aberdeen have felt hard done to by such decisions going against them recently and called for the introduction of VAR, as has Fir Park chief executive Alan Burrows, but Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson said little on the matter.

“There is no point in me talking about it, there is no chance it will get turned around,” he said. “I can only focus on the things I can control. Being more creating and having a goal threat is something we can control.”