Aberdeen 2 - 1 Hibernian: Gavin Rae seals Aberdeen’s first home win
WHEN you are the senior manager in the SPL in terms of age and have a long career behind you, it is entirely your entitlement to claim the credit for anything good that your team does.
Aberdeen - McGinn (4), Rae (71)
Hibernian - Doyle (33)
Referee: C Murray
In his usual self-mocking style, Craig Brown did just that on behalf of Aberdeen after their 2-1 victory over Hibs on Saturday.
The outcome of the match hinged on a double switch by Brown in the second half. Having seen winger Ryan Fraser subjected to some disgraceful treatment by Hibs, he brought the youngster off and sent him straight to the treatment room, putting on big Josh Magennis in his place.
Strong and bustling, Magennis changed the emphasis of Aberdeen’s attack and they suddenly became more direct rather than testing the visitors down the flanks, with Magennis heading narrowly over from a Niall McGinn cross only seconds after coming on.
With 20 minutes left, and with Magennis’s forceful play opening up space in the Hibs’ defence, Brown then instructed the positional change that won the match.
“Gavin Rae is good for a goal, he gets in the box,” said Brown. “Stephen Hughes was the one who was chasing the game in the first half but we changed it and said Stephen, you sit there and save your legs and let Gavin chase it.
“It was one of those fortunate positional changes. Within a minute of him becoming the more forward midfield player, he scored.”
With that typically mischievous Brown smile he added: “It was a masterstroke!”
Indeed it was, as Stephen Hughes confirmed: “We made the decision that I would just sit for five minutes and he’d get forward and within 30 seconds the ball was in the back of the net.
“It was the gaffer’s masterstroke,” he grinned.
One of the main talking points of the game was the performance of 18-year-old Ryan Fraser, who terrorised Hibs’ defence from his out-and-out right wing position, assisted mostly by 20-year-old right wing-back Ryan Jack – what a pairing they are for the future.
According to Hughes, Fraser is “tough, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he listens.”
Hughes was philosophical about the succession of meaty challenges on Fraser which saw both Alan Maybury and Paul Cairney booked. Indeed, the former was perhaps lucky not to have been sent off for his ‘studs up’ assault.
“He’s a very good player and sometimes he is too quick for his own good,” said Hughes. “I said to the referee you need to watch and give him a bit of protection because he’s just a young boy and he’s making his way in the game.
“I know the defenders he is playing against like Alan Maybury, and they’re not going out to try and hurt him or anything like that, but it is part of the game and if he is going to go to the top then he needs to learn that which, to be fair, he has done.
“Some boys milk it and lie about but he just takes it and gets up and gets on with the game. He’s been brilliant for us this season.”
Hughes was ruefully involved in Hibs’ equaliser which came after 33 minutes, Aberdeen having taken the lead after just four minutes when Scott Vernon shrugged of Paul Hanlon and shot low, forcing Ben Williams to palm the ball away only for the excellent Niall McGinn to prove that he’s a top rate ‘poacher’ of goals.
Hibs could have shrunk away as they did so often when flirting with relegation last season, but Pat Fenlon’s men, while never hitting their recent heights on Saturday, do not give up easily this term. Eion Doyle and Leigh Griffiths were always dangerous in attack, and it was the former who got them back into the game with a sumptuous 25-yard volley after Hughes mistimed his attempt at a headed clearance.
“It was a good strike,” said Hughes, “I went for the ball and I just flicked it and he took it early. He has caught it perfectly, and sometimes there’s not a lot you can do about it.”
Doyle described his stunner in prosaic terms: “It just came across me and I hit it first time. There was no touch or anything, I just had a go.”
Rae’s winner then proved enough, even though Hibs scorned chances to share the points, but Doyle feels that “what we can put down as an off day” will not stop the Edinburgh club’s revival after last season’s woeful times.
He said: “The last time we lost a game was the first game of the season. We have been on a good run so hopefully we can bounce back again.”
Both Hibs and Aberdeen seem to have a working blend of youth and experience in their squads this season. They tried to play good football in the biting wind at Pittodrie on Saturday, and these two clubs are sure to have a big say in the outcome of the SPL.