It wasn’t just Storm Desmond that gave Dens Park a bit of a battering on Saturday.
Aberdeen whipped up a minor hurricane of their own and lashed the Dundee defence in a decisive opening burst to this game. By any measure they should have had more goals to their name than Niall McGinn and Adam Rooney’s rapid-fire double in the first 30 minutes.
Derek McInnes’s men looked like a side restored to rude health. Yet the irresistible nature of many elements of their performance merely depeened the mystery of what went wrong at Pittodrie during their “lost October” when they picked up only three points from a possible 12 and undermined their early-season momentum.
McGinn was back to his best, turning his poor namesake Paul at right-back for Dundee inside out. His was a man-of-the-match performance – and that was despite only playing the opening 45 minutes before being withdrawn as a precaution against the possible recurrence of a groin injury. The Northern Irish international opened the scoring with a well-drilled low drive after being set up by Ash Taylor.
The Dons were hungrier and quicker thinking than Dundee with telling contributions by key players Kenny McLean and Willo Flood who combined with Jonny Hayes to present Rooney with the ultimate poacher’s gift – an open goal from two yards out which he put away in customary fashion.
Rooney expressed delight that it was back to business as usual not only for himself but also his team-mates. “I’ve been in good form lately,” he said. “I’m feeling confident and as you’ve seen today we’ve created a lot of chances – the lads put some great balls across the box and that’s what I thrive on. I would have liked to have got another goal but the main thing was to get another win and follow on from last week.”
His manager shared the general air of satisfaction that the Dons had emerged from a difficult and frustrating run of form to look much more like their normal selves. While some had questioned the mentality and sense of unity in the Pittodrie camp, McInnes insisted that everyone had mucked in together to turn things around. “As a player or manager at Aberdeen you’re going to have to go through little challenges and spells like we’ve had,” he said.
As is often the way with these things, this result switched the spotlight to the vanquished. Dundee are having a “little challenge” of their own right now with Paul Hartley’s side having only won one of their last ten fixtures. There have been a few draws in that sequence, but there is no denying the sense that pre-season expectations and current reality are not in harmony at Dens Park. They looked like the early kick-off to this game had caught them cold and offered little in the first half aside from a claim for a penalty when Andrew Considine clattered Nicky Low on the edge of the Dons box. After the interval they couldn’t help but improve but not enough to turn the tide, with the visitors’ Danny Ward dealing comfortably with anything that was thrown at him.
Unsurprisingly Dundee captain James McPake cut a disconsolate figure afterwards. “We probably lost the game in the first half,” he said. “That’s when the damage was done – we were as poor as we’ve been in a long time, so we’re disappointed. They’ve got players that can really hurt you and if you give them the space we did. That’s what they’re going to do.”
After the overblown expectations created by their eight-game winning run at the start of the campaign, Aberdeen are wary of any more talk about catching Celtic. They can, however, once again relish the more realistic aspiration of proving themselves the best of the rest as third-placed Hearts roll into town next Saturday for what should be an intriguing contest.
McInnes declared it “a brilliant game to look forward to”. Rooney, however, was more understated about its significance. “We just want to get as many points as we can and do better than last season. I think we’re slightly ahead of where we were at this point last year so if we improve on that it’ll be a good season.”