St Mirren 0-2 Aberdeen: Dons open up gap after win
THE four-point lead they have established at the top of the table over Celtic – who yesterday preferred to play a glorified friendly against PSV Eindhoven in the warm climes of Gran Canaria – is the least of what convinces that Derek McInnes’ men have staying power in this championship.
Yesterday marked the first run of eight straight league victories by an Aberdeen team since 1989. Moreover, not since Eddie Turnbull’s side racked up a 15-game winning run in the 1970-71 season has any Pittodrie team won more league games on the spin. McInnes’ side can then claim parity, in one small way, with the Aberdeen of the all-conquering Alex Ferguson 1980s era.
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Even in those glory days, the Pittodrie side never strung together eight clean sheets on league duty as was achieved yesterday… to match a record which has stood for 41 years.
“Any time you get that sort of run, it is very unusual, it doesn’t happen very often. The record books will tell you that,” said McInnes. “The challenge now is to go and try to win nine in a row and we have an opportunity to do that next week [at home to Dundee] while recognising that just because you are on a run and have confidence no-one is going to give you it. You still have work to do.
“I am enjoying watching my team at the minute, there is good maturity and focus from them and in those eight games I think we have deserved to win every single game.
“We have been the better side, created umpteen chances, scoring goals and eight clean sheets is obviously helping us. For any team in any league, eight [wins in a row] is a great run of form and we are pleased with that.”
McInnes’ side won with few close calls against a St Mirren team that at times matched their visitors, especially early on, but simply lacked the conviction of a team with the victory scent wafting through their nostrils.
That McInnes, who has walked off with the SPFL manager of the month award for December, seems anointed right now was perhaps illustrated by the manner of Aberdeen’s first goal, and the identity of its scorer. The manufactured controversy surrounding Niall McGinn being pictured with friend Anthony Stokes and their sons at Celtic’s game with Kilmarnock last Monday night was certainly tedious. The reception given to him by the Aberdeen fans showed they don’t see treachery in his actions. And the fact that a hopeful cross he swung in from the left held up in the wind to embarrass home keeper Mark Ridgers and Jeroen Tesselaar and bounce over the line at the far post suggested the fates wanted to cut the Irishman a break.
When Johnny Hayes shimmied down the left to cut open the St Mirren backline and arrow over a cross that Shay Logan slid in to convert, the afternoon was destined to be one that would make McGinn newsworthy for the right reasons.
“I thought he was outstanding,” McInnes said of the winger, who he added was not playing as if to prove a point but performing in the “determined” fashion he always does.
“I think the support singing his name from the first minute was pleasing for me. We were guilty of not giving him enough of the ball but any time he got it, he skinned his full back time and time again, he was still doing it right there at the death, setting up chances, when he was driving in the pitch he was making things happen. His performance was excellent but his performances are normally excellent for me.”
Excellence is becoming the norm for McInnes’ side. Yet, no-one in the Pittodrie camp dares talk about the possibility that this could allow them to threaten Celtic’s title hegemony. Johnny Hayes illustrated that when he gave his assessment on the potential for a title race. “We had no specific objectives, apart from defending our League Cup,” he said. “We’ll see where we are come the last game of the season with five minutes left.”
St Mirren: Ridgers; Naismith, Goodwin, Tesselaar, Kelly; McClear (Morgan 71), Mallan, McGinn, Osbourne (Reilly 74), Wylde (Ball 71); McLean. Subs not used: Kello, Marwood, Williams, Baird.
Aberdeen: Brown; Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine; Jack, Hayes; Rooney (Shankland 84), Pawlett (Robson 82), McGinn; Goodwillie (Smith 82). Subs not used: Langfield, Shaughnessy, Masson, Wright.
Referee: S McLean. Attendance: 4,997.
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