St Mirren 1-1 Aberdeen: Late heartbreak for Saints
Scorers: Thompson, 54; Aberdeen - Pawlett, 89
A Steven Thompson goal ten minutes into the second half had given the home team the lead, and looked like providing some much-needed breathing space for embattled St Mirren manager Danny Lennon, but Pawlett’s shot following a corner was just reward for the visitors, who then came close to seizing all three points through substitute Niall McGinn.
Although they are still second bottom, Saints will travel to Tynecastle on Saturday in a far better frame of mind after this performance. Aberdeen, meanwhile, will rue an end to their run of five clean sheets, but still look more than capable of a top-four finish.
Lennon, who already knew he would be without Danny Grainger because of suspension, was forced to make a second change to his back four after Marc McAusland, arguably St Mirren’s best performer in recent games, failed a fitness test. Sean Kelly and Darren McGregor came into the defence, while the home manager also dropped Gary Harkins and Gary Teale from the team that had started the 2-0 defeat by Hibernian, replacing them with John McGinn and Lee Mair. Perhaps more importantly, Jim Goodwin moved up from centre-half to midfield, a switch which Lennon had been urged to make but previously resisted.
Scott Vernon, Aberdeen’s hat-trick-scoring substitute in the League Cup last week, started for the visitors along with the man he replaced against Falkirk, Calvin Zola. Nicky Low dropped out to accommodate Vernon, who began in midfield, while Andrew Considine came back instead of Clark Robertson.
Their confidence high after a run of five clean sheets, Aberdeen asserted themselves immediately, with Ryan Jack and Jonny Hayes causing problems for St Mirren down the right. Saints’ frame of mind can hardly have been so buoyant in the wake of five straight defeats since a draw with Kilmarnock, but at least they showed far more determination and purpose than they had displayed in their lacklustre outing at Easter Road.
Despite the best efforts of both sides, it still took almost half an hour before either goalkeeper was seriously tested. McGinn was the player who eventually forced Jamie Langfield to earn his corn, making space for himself on the left before firing in a low drive which the ’keeper gathered at the second attempt.
Aberdeen were more creative in the latter stages of the half, but without putting Christopher Dilo under any real pressure. Their running off the ball was good, and some of their crosses were dangerous, but even when Zola won the first ball, his knockdown was swept away by the defence.
Not long before half-time Considine looked close to being taken off after receiving a knock to the thigh, but Robertson began to warm up only to be told to sit down again as the
centre-half started to jog more freely.
It seemed clear, all the same, that both teams could do with a change of personnel in a bid to inject some sharpness into a contest that did not lack for effort, but was conspicuously short of goalmouth action.
When the teams came back out, the only change was by Aberdeen, with Low taking over from Vernon. The latter had had a quiet first half in midfield, but was not the obvious choice to go off. Indeed, as Zola had picked up a booking late in the first half after one ungainly challenge too many, there was an argument for him to go off and Vernon to move up front.
Low was soon involved in a promising if over-elaborate build-up, which ended with a Jack shot being deflected for a corner. The dead-ball delivery was easily cleared, but although the move was an encouraging start to the second half for Aberdeen, within a few minutes they found themselves behind. McGinn and Paul McGowan were both involved in the build-up, and when the cross came in Thompson used his strength to shrug off a challenge before poking home, becoming the first player since Hearts’ Jordan McGhee to find the net against Derek McInnes’s team.
Aberdeen began the fightback immediately, and Dilo had to position himself well to save a Hayes free kick. Josh Magennis came on for Zola, and then Hayes had an impressive run from midfield ended when Pawlett mistimed a return pass to him.
Stephane Bahoken became the first St Mirren substitute of the night when he came on for McGinn, and as the match entered its closing 20 minutes you could sense the self-belief growing in the home team. Aberdeen were committing eight or nine men forward at times, leaving themselves vulnerable to a quick counter-attack and a second goal that would secure the home win.
A 25-yard shot by Kenny McLean was just wide of target, then at the other end Pawlett headed over from an awkwardly bouncing delivery. McGinn became Aberdeen’s third and final change of the night with quarter of an hour to play, and ten minutes later was instrumental in the equaliser.
When a defensive error allowed the substitute through on goal, his shot was blocked by Dilo then deflected off a defender for a corner.
The ball from the right was cleared out of the penalty area, but hammered back into the net by Pawlett. At that stage of the game it was a cruel blow to St Mirren, but over the course of the contest no less than Aberdeen deserved.
St Mirren: Dilo, McGregor, Goodwin, McGowan, Van Zanten, J McGinn (Bahoken 68), Mair, Kelly, Newton, Thompson (Teale 88), McLean. Subs not used: Cornell, Naismith, Reilly, Caprice, Harkins.
Aberdeen: Langfield, Shaughnessy, Hector, Reynolds, Considine, Pawlett, Smith (N McGinn 75), Jack, Hayes, Zola (Magennis 63), Vernon (Low 46). Subs not used: Weaver, Anderson, Robertson, Wylde.