Aberdeen welcomed Derek McInnes back with a hard-fought victory. The Pittodrie manager has experienced an agonising week and his side endured an uncomfortable close to the match as Dundee piled on late pressure.
But McInnes’ hopes that the link with Rangers can now be consigned to the past were helped with a victory secured by defender Scott McKenna’s goal in the 48 th minute. The man of the moment also made a significant intervention by replacing youngster Frank Ross with Kari Arnason at half-time. Aberdeen scored the decisive goal three minutes after the break.
A water supply problem in the South Enclosure meant those fans with tickets for that area were re-housed in the main stand on a bitterly cold evening on Tayside.
The glove count was 4-0 to Dundee – 5-0 when Scott Allan replaced Paul McGowan in the second half. But it was Aberdeen who made the breakthrough shortly after half-time after the visitors had withstood a strong Dundee challenge in the opening half and again towards the end.
McKenna was in the right place at the right time to poke the opener past Elliot Parish, who looked slightly suspect. The visitors then had the game management skills to see out a victory that puts them back in second place in the table – for the time being. Rangers, the club whose advances McInnes rejected, can return there with a win against Ross County this afternoon.
But it was not all sweetness and light for Aberdeen. Team-mates Kenny McLean and Graeme Shinnie were involved in a heated exchange in the second-half. Tony Docherty, McInnes’ assistant, had to be separated from Dundee manager Neil McCann after the final whistle.
Aberdeen certainly posed less threat than on their last visit, when they won 7-0. But following two successive defeats to Rangers, all that mattered was victory. It was not possible to claim McInnes was love-bombed by the away fans. Perhaps trust is still an issue for the time being. But his cause will be greatly helped by a positive result at the end of a unsettling week for him and the Pittodrie club.
The first team of his second life as Aberdeen manager contained two changes from Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Rangers. Ryan Christie returned to the side after suspension while Ross, who scored Aberdeen’s goal last weekend after coming on as substitute, also started.
There was expected vigour from Aberdeen following the stabilising news of Thursday evening. Skipper Graeme Shinnie went close with a long-range effort. But it was Dundee who finished the first-half stronger and who spurned the clearest opportunities.
Roarie Deacon should have done better than allow Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis to save with is legs after he latched on to a headed flick from Sofien Moussa. The same player also brought out a fine flying save from Lewis 11 minutes before half-time.
Aberdeen could point to a shot from Christie that just cleared the bar following a fine solo run. But Dundee, with centre-half Jack Hendry and holding midfielder Glen Kamara again stand outs, looked solid for the most part. They certainly looked harder to break down than their trip here in March, when Aberdeen were 4-0 up by half-time.
All eyes were on the away dugout. The away fans were in buoyant mood. “Concomitant You Reds” read one banner in the Bob Shankly stand. McInnes turned to quickly applaud these visiting supporters when he emerged and made a quick dash up the touchline to the away technical area.
Aberdeen wished for “business as usual” – at least that was how their website summed up the situation after McInnes and Docherty had chosen to re-affirm their commitment to the club.
They wished for this to extend to their fortunes at Dens, where Aberdeen had not lost in the league for 13 years.
They would have been confident of doing so had the fixture taken place just over a fortnight ago. But Dundee’s prospects have improved following two successive victories. They look a more settled side and certainly made Aberdeen work hard for what they earned last night.
Their goal was the product of some good fortune. Kenny McLean slung in a low cross and McKenna stuck out a right leg and diverted the ball inside the post from around the penalty spot.
Moussa came close to heading in an equaliser eight minutes later after meeting a Jon Aurtenetxe corner. But Lewis saved well again to his right.
An engaging match on an excellent pitch for this time of year developed into a battle of attrition amid a flurry of bookings.
Shinnie should have made the game safe for Aberdeen after Adam Rooney’s neat ball played him in. However, the skipper’s finish was too near Parish, who made a comfortable save. Dundee’s best chance to salvage something was wasted by left-back Aurtenetxe, whose dink over Lewis drifted just past the ‘keeper’s right hand post.