TWO second-half goals by Adam Rooney maintained Aberdeen’s 100 per cent start to their league campaign, and if they can extend that run to six matches then Celtic may well find themselves facing a genuine challenge for the title.
Derek McInnes takes his side to face struggling Partick Thistle next weekend, then it’s the first head-to-head against the defending champions at Pittodrie immediately after the international break.
Of course the failure to take a single point from Ronny Deila’s team last season was a major factor in the Dons eventually finishing 17 points off the pace, but Dundee also proved troublesome opponents.
Aberdeen won one and drew the other three against Paul Hartley’s men but proved they have enough quality in depth this time round to manufacture a win at a stage when it was starting to look unlikely.
Dundee were actually playing their best attacking football of the afternoon when a bit of brilliance by Jonny Hayes and a textbook finish by Rooney pretty much settled things in 66 minutes. Not for the first time the Irish winger skinned poor Kevin Holt for pace down the right, hit the byeline then produced the sort of inviting cross Rooney has made a habit of burying.
It was the striker’s first from open play this season to mark the first time he has started alongside David Goodwillie in the current campaign, a reflection of the options available to McInnes nowadays.
Rooney’s only previous goal came from the penalty spot against Kilmarnock, and he accepted the chance to claim another with virtually the last kick of the game.
That was appropriate as the former Caley Thistle striker won it in the first place after being blocked in the box by Gary Harkins, who received a straight red card for his trouble
Paul Hartley, already without injured players Kevin Thomson, Nicky Low and Rory Loy, will appeal it if television evidence backs up the midfielder’s contention that there was little or no contact with the opponent.
“Gary is saying he really didn’t touch him,” claimed the Dundee manager. “I don’t know until I see the footage of that but the thing is we could be minus another player for the next league game against Caley Thistle.
“We have a few injuries to contend with and we are a little thin on the ground at the moment so it is disappointing as he has been playing really well for us.”
However, Hartley’s main source of annoyance would be his team’s poor start to a fixture at odds with the well-balanced, entertaining five meetings between the pair in league and Scottish Cup last season.
Frustration was probably nearer the mark as far as Pittodrie counterpart McInnes was concerned after a first 45 minutes almost completely controlled by Aberdeen.
Their fluency, pace and movement limited the visitors to defending doggedly and desperately at times, particularly given the variety and abundance of the Dons’ set pieces.
That’s where their best chances came from in the opening period with Ash Taylor, match-winner from one such situation at Fir Park the previous Saturday, heading a Hayes corner just over.
Niall McGinn for the first 20 minutes and Hayes for the rest of the half gave former Queen of the South left-back Holt in particular a torrid time.
Despite that, the Dundee three- man central defence did well to protect Scott Bain, who didn’t have a serious save to make for all Aberdeen’s possession.
Neither did Danny Ward at the other end until Kane Hemmings broke through early in the second half, only to be thwarted by the pace shown by the on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper when coming out to meet him.
Of course Dundee have been gaining plaudits for the verve of their attacking play so far this season and they started to show why, as they controlled the second period right up to the moment Rooney struck.
A satisfied and ultimately relieved Aberdeen manager said: “It was important that we didn’t allow the frustration of not scoring despite our dominance in the first half to get to us. We kept doing the right thing and took charge again after 15 minutes of the second half with a bit of real quality from Jonny’s cross and Adam’s header to get the breakthrough we deserved.”
Aberdeen: Ward; Logan, Taylor, Considine, Shinnie; McGinn, Jack, McLean, Hayes (Quinn 86); Goodwillie (Parker 76), Rooney. Subs not used: Brown, Smith, Robson, Storie, Wright.
Dundee: Bain; McGinn, McPake, Konrad (Carreiro 82), Etxabeguren, Holt; Ross, McGowan, Harkins, Stewart; Hemmings. Subs not used: Mitchell, Irvine, Meggatt, Ferry, Gadzhalov, Curran.
Referee: Bobby Madden. Attendance: 13,621.