St Mirren 1-1 Aberdeen: Teams pushing for top six finish play out draw

ABERDEEN’S unlikely assault on European qualification just became tougher. Of course, any such ambition would have seemed insane just nine matches into this campaign, when they had harvested just six points.

Craig Brown and Archie Knox have worked assiduously to improve this Dons side and, although they are now unbeaten in their last 11 matches, six of the last eight have ended in draws. With runaway SPL leaders Celtic due at Pittodrie on Saturday, the prospects of a top-six finish for Brown are receding.

“We could have won the game because we certainly crated enough chances,” said Brown afterwards. “We didn’t take them, though.

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“It was a depleted side out there – we’re just limping from fixture to fixture at the moment. It’s frustrating because we’re drawing games we should be winning.”

The early exchanges must have worked wonders for the viewing figures of BBC1’s Football Focus. If the weather was freezing the tepid fare on offer did little to warm the hardy souls who elected to watch the action in the flesh rather than in the comfort of their own homes.

Scott Vernon finally forced a save from Craig Samson with a half-hit volley from Rory McArdle’s cross in the 24th minute and Kari Arnason ought to have broken the deadlock when he fired wide after being sent clear by Fraser Fyvie three minutes later.

Ryan Jack thought he’d done just that on the stroke of half time when he prodded home from point-blank range but the midfielder was in an offside position when Vernon nodded Mitchell Megginson’s cross on for him.

Marc McAusland, cautioned for a foul on Megginson, had looked off the pace throughout and he was replaced at the interval by debutant Jason Naismith.

Aberdeen squandered a glorious opportunity to take the lead five minutes after the restart, much to the relief of Lee Mair. The former Dons defender was hopelessly short with a passback and, with Samson off his line, Fyvie had the entire goal to aim at but, from 15 yards out, he pulled his shot wide.

That profligacy was punished when the home side took the lead against the run of play. Youl Mawene lost his footing as he was rolled by Nigel Hasselbaink and the diminutive Dutchman took full advantage to send a left-foot drive high behind Jason Brown.

Hasselbaink was in no mood to apologise to those in the Aberdeen camp who claimed that he had been offside when the ball was played to him.

“I wasn’t offside,” he said. “I could see their defender next to me. There are so few chances being created at the moment that we have to take them when they come.

“There haven’t been too many starts in the league for me recently so I had to make the most of this one.”

Stung by the reverse, Aberdeen restored parity within two minutes. Megginson’s cross to the far post was touched back across goal by Fyvie and top scorer Vernon slammed home to take his SPL haul for the campaign into double figures.

“We dominated the game so we’re disappointed not to have won,” said Vernon.

“It felt like a defeat. We’ve improved in recent weeks and set our standards higher and we came here for the three points.

“There are positives to take from the game because we played well and kept our unbeaten run going.”

St Mirren manager Danny Lennon was disappointed to have lost the goal so quickly after taking the lead but he refused to be too critical of his side after a fourth successive league draw and their 14th of a stop-start campaign.

“We should have held on to that lead and built on it,” he said. “They were the better side in the first half but the game opened up in the second half.”