Partick 1 - 2 Aberdeen: Dons close gap on Celtic

Aberdeens Andrew Considine levels the score in the 73rd minute at Firhill, two minutes before Simon Church grabbed the winner. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Aberdeens Andrew Considine levels the score in the 73rd minute at Firhill, two minutes before Simon Church grabbed the winner. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
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Ladies and gentleman, we have ourselves a title race. And how, with Aberdeen producing a three, two, one that supplied the ultimate in high-octane lift-offs for their Premiership challenge to Celtic. With Derek McInnes’s side losing and, frankly, looking lost in Maryhill, from nowhere, inside three minutes, they produced two goals, that move them to within one point of Ronny Deila’s side.

Such a comeback, in such circumstances, tends to be a cue in media circles to talk about the mark of champions. That would be overstating the importance of the victory but what the three-point haul last night served as was an indication that Aberdeen have an ability to dig mighty deep.

There is no doubting that the Pittodrie men have a spine…which has been shown to be brittle in a Celtic whose necks they are now breathing down.

That is the case because, 14 minutes after going behind to a brilliant Steven Lawless strike, Jonny Hayes crossed in a ball that bounced off a home head and into the path of Andrew Considine, who kept his composure to bundle in at the back post.

If that was a little untidy there was an impressive sleekness to the winner that claimed Simon Church his fourth goal in six games.

Pristine delivery from a 
corner by substitute Barry Robson was matched by a delightful dinked header from the on-loan MK Dons striker.

With the title opportunity that has knocked for Aberdeen, the clear imperative for them to secure three points in Maryhill last night was reflected in their line-up.

It is only three weeks since Hayes suffered a tear in his hamstring. However, with no Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn injured, the need to find another source for the alchemy that wins matches meant the Irishman made a surprise start.

Hayes did so sporting tights that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Globe theatre. Patently, there was a risk in returning him to action so soon but it was understandable that McInnes felt the gamble necessary with his side seeking to produce their own play on history this campaign.

There was little to document for posterity across the 
opening exchanges of an encounter that it was easy to overlook had potentially huge significance for Alan Archilbald’s men as well. A home victory carried the prize of pushing Partick into fifth. The upper half of the top flight is ordinarily closed off to the Glasgow club by this stage of any season.

As Aberdeen sought to get on the front foot and make movements towards their opponents’ goal, Archibald’s men did a pretty good job of closing off space. Hayes did produce a couple of flashes and the odd goal effort, but a cat-and-mouse confrontation developed. The ball, indeed, could have been made of wool for all that either team really worked it constructively.

The pattern mercifully began to change as the half-hour mark approached, with Archibald’s side the first really to put the frighteners on their opponents.

The Aberdeen backline was then caught flat as they played for offside, but an inadvertent touch from Ash Taylor played Fraser on. He raced through on goal but over-cooked an attempt to chip Scott Brown, with the result that the ball 
sizzled over the bar.

Aberdeen’s best chance of the half followed within minutes in a gravity-defying escape for Thistle. It followed Hayes whipping in a free-kick that Mark Reynolds headed across goal.

Church was quickest to react, nipping in ahead of the Tomas Cerny, but in flicking the ball over the keeper the expected goal did not ensue when the ball drifted up and skiffed the top of the crossbar. The ding-dong continued with Brown blocking from Fraser after the attacker had found himself in behind the defence.

When Sean Welsh blocked on the line after Craig Storie had slung in a free-kick from wide you started to wonder if a goal wouldn’t come.

When Lawless produced a beezer of a 25-yard drive to put the home side in front after an hour, you started to think nothing was going to come of the night for Aberdeen.

The turnaround they then produced was monumental for the outcome but could have implication far beyond.