After a gruelling December described as “unfair” by Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, there are few more daunting venues to visit than Livingston. A bruising, attritional, breathless 90 minutes is always assured in the Lions’ den.
Little wonder the Dons boss was so proud of his side after they left West Lothian having achieved what Celtic, Rangers, Hibernian and Hearts could not: a victory.
McInnes was candid in his assessment of Aberdeen’s festive fixtures, insisting at least one of their matches could have been re-arranged for later in the campaign and citing congestion as the cause of a swathe of injuries.
Yet they belied their lengthy list of walking wounded to become just the second side to defeat Livi on their own patch this term, recovering admirably from a physically and mentally draining Boxing Day defeat against Celtic.
“I have been concerned about the nine games in December,” said McInnes. “We played the League Cup final and then eight league games in 24 days.
“It is really unfair and we have picked up muscle injuries to Bruce Anderson, Max Lowe, Shay Logan, Niall McGinn. It is just down to the scheduling. It is fatigue and being susceptible to injuries.
“We put a lot into the Celtic game and almost got a result. That’s why I was delighted with the way we picked ourselves up and got this win against Livingston – and we can go into the winter break proud of what we have achieved in the first half of the season.”
Yet, Aberdeen initially appeared destined to play out a maddening 0-0 stalemate against Livingston after passing up a swathe of opportunities, with Stevie May the biggest culprit despite an otherwise impressive showing.
The Scotland internationalist curled a shot over the bar in the early exchanges before blazing wide on three occasions after the break. For all his intelligent movement and tidy link-up play, it was not his day in front of goal.
That profligacy was almost punished when Craig Halkett forced a wonderful reflex save from Joe Lewis after meeting a sumptuous Steven Lawless delivery.
However, James Wilson was on hand to provide the killer touch the Dons needed. The on-loan Manchester United striker showed wonderful predatory instincts to turn a wayward Stephen Gleeson shot into the net from 12 yards, just his third goal for the club.
He was not finished there, either. With Livingston throwing bodies forward in search of a leveller, Wilson produced a sensational solo run, dashing forward 60 yards before producing a delivery to the back post which caused an almighty stramash, with the ball eventually trickling over the line. Steve Lawson was the unhappy recipient of the credit.
If McInnes can unlock performances like this on a regular basis, the 23-year-old could yet be the coup many expected when he arrived in August. “James came on and, like all good players, he was ready to make an impact from the bench,” added McInnes. “Hopefully, that does him the world of good. It is important for any player to feel that he is contributing and James certainly did that.”
Livingston did ensure a nervous finale when Ryan Hardie flicked a shot beyond Lewis, allowing Scott Pittman to force the ball over the line from close range. It would, however, prove to be a mere consolation.
Livi boss Gary Holt added: “I can’t fault the lads for effort and what they gave me. It’s our last game before the break so we might nurse it a little longer, but we’ll take it on the chin.”