The Irishman’s predatory instincts were clear in the third minute of added time as, after being introduced from the bench on the hour mark, he bundled in his 28th goal of a remarkable season. Scotland will be hopeful the former Inverness Caley Thistle striker, who is bidding to become the first to score 30 in a season for his club since Joe Harper in 1979, does not now extend his campaign of terrorising opposition defences into next month’s Euro 2016 qualifier.
“He’s the fox in the box, he lives in that six-yard box,” said Derek McInnes, who revealed a new deal is “more or less agreed” with Barry Robson, despite the midfielder being offered less money to stay. “When others are following the ball and when others are switched off he’s switched on and alert. That’s why he’s got his 28 goals. He’s someone who has been so important to us this season.
“His 28 goals is a great return from him and I do believe he can keep improving. That predatory instinct won’t leave him and I think he can still bring more to his game.”
Rooney’s goal took Aberdeen on to the 75-point mark, a new top-flight record for a non-Old Firm team, and prevented the Dons from racking up three consecutive 1-0 defeats, following the recent disappointments against Dundee United and Celtic.
It also won the 27-year-old a bet with McInnes, who challenged his top scorer to net another ten goals in the final 18 matches. With a home match against St Johnstone to bring the curtain down on the Premiership campaign, Rooney is thrilled to have the prospect of international football to still look forward to. “It was nice to get the goal in the week I got the call-up, it’s nice for confidence,” said the Dubliner.
Aberdeen pummelled the Dundee goal in the opening half and yet went in for the interval a goal behind. However, it was a scenario that, a couple of outstanding saves from home keeper Kyle Letheren aside, they largely brought on themselves.
Letheren, back in the side because of Scott Bain’s knee injury, displayed stunning agility to repel a shot from Cammy Smith in the 19th minute and the way he tipped over the midielder’s header from the rebound was even more impressive.
Whilst Aberdeen’s profligacy in attack would have disappointed McInnes, their dithering in defence at the goal would have infuriated him. A high punt found both Ash Taylor and Donervorn Daniels in attendance for the Dons but when neither took charge of the situation the slight figure of Jim McAlister leapt to take advantage. His header down caught Scott Brown in no-man’s land and Tankulic’s flick beyond the Aberdeen keeper bounced slowly into the unguarded net.
A long-range drive from Robson that was turned aside by Letheren in 58th minute was the best the Dons could conjure until a misdirected header from Kostadin Gadzhalov handed one last opportunity from a corner in the third minute of time added on. With Brown’s presence in the opposition box causing havoc at Jonny Hayes’ corner, Taylor headed goalwards and when Greg Stewart nodded off the line Rooney bundled home.
“At this stage of the season, when you’ve done the job of getting into the top-six it’s difficult,” said Dens boss Paul Hartley, who declared himself delighted with the pre-contract signing of former Rangers and Cowdenbeath striker Kane Hemmings. “At this time of the season you want it over as quickly as you can if you’re not fighting for Europe or whatever, and then you look at next season to see how you can better. But, overall, the job was done a few weeks ago getting into the top-six.”
Scorers: Dundee - Tankulic 43; Aberdeen - Rooney 90+3
Dundee: Letheren, P McGinn, McPake, Gadzhalov, Irvine, Thomson, McAlister (S McGinn 45), McGowan, Stewart, Tankulic (Harris 81). Subs not used: Ferry, Black, Harkins, Brodie, Wighton. Goals: Tankulic 43’. Booked: Gadzhalov.
Aberdeen: Brown, Logan, Taylor, Daniels (Low 82), Considine, Pawlett, Smith, Robson, Hayes, Goodwillie (Ross 89), Shankland (Rooney 60). Subs not used: Langfield, Anderson, Harvie, Wright. Goals: Rooney 90’. Booked: Robson, Goodwillie.
Referee: E Anderson