St Johnstone 0 - 2 Aberdeen: Graeme Shinnie double earns win for Dons

There’s been an awful lot of talk about the man in the middle of park in recent days. There was even more of it after this game, but to the relief of almost everyone it’s pleasing report that it was a tour de force by Aberdeen midfielder Graeme Shinnie that had folks talking.
Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie celebrates. Pic: SNS/Craig WilliamsonAberdeen's Graeme Shinnie celebrates. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson
Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie celebrates. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson

His two masterfully taken goals in either half which won this game for the Pittodrie men were only half of it. In modern football parlance he bossed this one.

It was more than enough to ensure that Derek McInnes’s side have now equalled a club record in winning seven on the trot away from home and tunes them up nicely for another attempt to making it to the Scottish Cup semi-finals when they meet Rangers next weekend. The rivalry with the Ibrox side also extends to vying for second place in the Premiership and this victory turns up the heat in that contest as well.

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“We knew the difficulty of the task coming here”, reflected McInnes, “but once we got in front, we weren’t always comfortable but I thought we were in charge of the game. We would have kicked ourselves if we hadn’t got that second goal but when Shinnie scored it we looked like a very experienced team and managed the game.”

On Shinnie’s contribution and speculation over his future at the club he added, “Understandably he’s got a lot to consider at the minute. What is clear is his pride in being an Aberdeen player and his love of being Aberdeen captain, the adoration of the supporters towards him and him towards them. There’s a connection there.”

Only in the opening stages did the Pittodrie side look less than convincing as St Johnstone, clearly out to saviour the delight of a win bonus once again after a difficult sequence of fixtures and results, started forcefully. There was a genuine hunger about them early on and they were to rue the fact that they didn’t get their noses in front while Aberdeen still seemed to be sizing them up.

Matt Kennedy had clear sight of goal in the visitors’ box after only five minutes, but he hesitated allowing Andrew Considine to whip it away. It was to be a recurring tale in the first half with Chris Kane seeing an even better opening obliterated by a last gasp challenge by the omnipresent Shinnie later on.

The hosts didn’t help themselves however with a series of corners that were so unthreatening that they may as well have been smothered in gift wrapping as Joe Lewis nonchalantly plucked them out of the air. There was also an element of the self-inflicted about the breakthrough goal which saw possession cheaply conceded in the midfield by the Perth men and then Sean Goss wrong-footed by Shinnie’s nimble manoeuvring. However there could be no quibbling about the quality of the low angled shot which was then dispatched into the corner of Cammy Bell’s net.

It arrived out of nowhere and for all the nice passages of play they spliced together around the pitch the visitors didn’t carve out that many more chances before the interval aside from a booming Gary Mackay-Steven shot that Bell was relieved to palm away.

Though it wasn’t exactly incidents by the score there was always an edge to the proceedings. There were some pretty robust challenges that had the occupants of both technical areas leaping around with arms flailing like windmills. However match referee Euan Anderson did his bit for the reputation of under-fire Scottish officials by doing well to keep a lid on it.

If anything Aberdeen emerged after the interval looking leaner and meaner than they had in any of those earlier feisty exchanges. Imposing a stranglehold they went in search of the killer second goal and would surely have claimed it if were not for some tidy interventions from Saints’ highly impressive centre half Jason Kerr.

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On many other afternoon’s such composed defending would have made Kerr the standout player on the field. However he was eclipsed by the coruscating Shinnie. In command of the midfield and picking out colleagues with precision passes, he crowned his day with a finish that was perhaps even more sublime than his opener, arrowing in drive from 25 yards to wrap things up.

“If you make mistakes like we did, give the ball away cheaply like we did, you end up making it a hard afternoon for yourself” was St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright succinct post-mortem.