As it was, they had secured a home tie against Championship play-off contenders Queen of the South in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup before half-time. Indeed, this tie had all the romance of a pre-nuptial agreement.
Stenhousemuir were buoyed by their 1-1 draw at Pittodrie but they are bottom of League 1 for a reason and, in spite of a spirited performance, they were comprehensively outplayed here.
Injuries and cup-tied players meant Stenhousemuir manager Colin McMenamin, pictured,who took no part in the 1-1 draw at Pittodrie ten days earlier, had to fill a place on his side’s bench. The 37-year-old former Livingston, Dundee and Gretna striker included himself among their five substitutes in spite of starting only three games this season.
Aberdeen’s draw with last night’s opponents was a rare blip in some fine recent form and they should have drawn first blood after only six minutes. A slick passing move culminated in a venomous drive from 25 yards by Lewis Ferguson which goalkeeper Graeme Smith could only parry into the path of the lurking Niall McGinn. The Irishman has not been as prolific in his second spell with the Dons, however, and he scuffed the rebound into the side netting when a goal seemed inevitable.
It arrived soon enough. Scott Wright claimed the assist with a serpentine run which took him past three opponents and into the penalty area, at which point he rolled the ball into the path of McGinn, who made amends for his previous miss by blasting it behind Smith from 15 yards.
Wright’s pace was causing all sorts of problems for the home defence and captain Mark Ferry came close to diverting a driven cross into his own net.
Greg Stewart had still to score since returning to Aberdeen but he thought he had done just that in the 27th minute. Graeme Shinnie released him 18 yards out and in the middle of the goal. He got his shot away quickly but Conor McBrearty’s desperate challenge saw the ball spin inches wide of the far post.
All three players were involved in Aberdeen’s second. On this occasion Shinnie’s through ball was deflected by McBrearty into the path of Stewart, who was brought down by Smith. Sam Cosgrove confidently despatched the resulting penalty to claim his 12th goal of the campaign.
Stewart finally got in on the act himself six minutes from the break and his personal landmark provided a tombstone for Stenhousemuir’s hopes of an upset.
Once again Shinnie played a key role, feeding the forward on the far corner of the penalty area. Smith attempted to narrow the angle by leaving his line but Stewart’s deft lob ended up in the net in spite of the best efforts of Ruaridh Donaldson to keep it out.
It was no less than Aberdeen deserved for an utterly dominant opening period. The underdogs rarely had possession and held on to it even less frequently as McInnes’ men hustled and harried them all over the pitch.
To their credit, Stenny kept plugging away and, after Andy Munro had cleared a Stewart shot off the line, they pulled one back. Joe Lewis made an impressive diving save to turn over a long-range effort by Ferry but Munro proved he was equally effective in both penalty boxes when his firm downward header from Sean Dickson’s corner eluded the goalkeeper.
Any faint hopes of taking the tie into extra time were soon dashed by an act of self-harming, however. Not one Aberdeen player attacked Stewart’s cross to the far post where Donaldson appeared to take stage fright, heading the ball into his own net via the underside of the crossbar.
Only some wayward finishing and some fine goalkeeping by Smith kept the scoreline respectable but McMenamin’s men deserved that good fortune for their efforts.