Aberdeen 0-1 St Johnstone: Dons pass up chance to go third with fourth goalless game on the bounce

Derek McInnes was hoping normal service would be resumed just in time for the decisive phase of the season after the weekend draw at Ibrox but instead it was a case of one step forward, one step back for goal shy Aberdeen.
Zander Clark pulls off a point-blank save to deny Scott McKenna late onZander Clark pulls off a point-blank save to deny Scott McKenna late on
Zander Clark pulls off a point-blank save to deny Scott McKenna late on

Ali McCann's third goal in his last four games was enough to give St Johnstone three points on a night when the Dons had the chance to move back into third place with a victory.

A similar scoreline in their favour would have been enough to take them above Motherwell on goal difference but the Dons manager has now seen his side go 364 minutes without a single one.

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It's four scoreless games in total now for the first time since Craig Brown was in charge in 2011 and while there was no repeat of the supporters poisonous reaction to the stalemate at Paisley recently, they made their displeasure evident at the end.

Now they simply have to respond when Kilmarnock travel to Pittodrie for Saturday's 5th round Scottish Cup tie, a team they have only lost once to in 25 meetings since McInnes took over.

Defeat in that one is now unthinkable if calm is to be restored.

It certainly has been at the Perth club as this result moves a side struggling at the foot of the table early in the season to within four points of a place in the top six where they resided for so long until recently.

Matty Kennedy made his home debut for the Dons against his former club but most of the interest focussed on fellow newcomer Ronald Hernandez after the Venezuela international's transfer deadline day signing from Norway's Stabaek.

It's fair to say it wasn't the most comfortable of starts for the 22-year-old right back whose lack of inches was immediately targeted by the visitors until Ash Taylor sorted things out.

Not that things turned out much better for the central defender as he only lasted 20 minutes before having to give way with an injury and being replaced by Mikey Devlin.

Aberdeen were already trailing by that point and Hernandez couldn't have been too happy about his role after being caught up the pitch as St Johnstone broke quickly to score on the counterattack.

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Ryan Hedges was caught in possession near the edge of the penalty area and with Hernandez ambling back Liam Craig's superb pass from inside his own half split the Dons two covering defenders.

Ali McCann took full advantage racing clear through the middle before clipping a delightful finish over the advancing Joe Lewis for his third goal in the last four appearances.

That, and the loss of Taylor seemed to inhibit Aberdeen in attacking sense for a while but they did regain some sort of equilibrium in defence as St Johnstone struggled to get out of their own half.

Mind you, the injury that forced Michael O'Halloran's replacement with Drey Wright after 27 minutes didn't help but at the same time they looked reasonably comfortable at the back for most of the half.

The exceptions were any time Aberdeen won a set piece as Scott McKenna showed when flashing a near post header from a Hedges corner narrowly wide of the target in 32 minutes.

Hedges, with a Euro 2020 place in the Wales squad to aim for, looked in the mood and was the main threat on a night when the normally reliable Niall McGinn started out on the bench.

The former Barnsley winger went closest to a first half equaliser, gathering a throw in from a more settled Hernandez before spinning away from his marker for a shot Zander Clark was happy to punch clear.

Taken all that into consideration it was no surprise to see McGinn replace an ineffectual Gallagher at the interval and that, no doubt accompanied by stern words from McInnes, seemed to spark an initial improvement.

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Sam Cosgrove then Hedges had pot shots at goal only separated only by the block a more involved Clark was forced to make to keep out the former's effort.

McGinn then flashed an inviting ball across the face of goal that Hedges just failed to connect with before the Aberdeen manager went for broke by putting on an extra striker.

Hernandez's debut ended in 66 minutes when he was replaced by Bruce Anderson with McGinn covering back when ever there was any defending to be done.