ABERDEEN may have lost three times to Celtic in the league this season but Dundee have done just as much damage to the Pittodrie club’s season as the treble-chasing Glasgow club. The Dons were knocked out of the Scottish Cup on their last visit to Dens Park and this draw dealt a massive blow to their hopes of winning the title for the first time in 30 years.
Scorers: Dundee - S McGinn 69; Aberdeen - Rooney 36
Adam Rooney’s 25th goal of the season, and his 15th in the league, looked like keeping the pressure on Celtic, only for Dundee’s gritty second-half display to rescue a point through Stephen McGinn’s first for the club.
This was only Aberdeen’s third draw in an unbeaten run of 17 games against teams lower than them in the Premiership table and, of course, Dundee were responsible for one of the others too.
What was most impressive about this one was the fact the home side ground out a result that strengthens their chances of a top-six finish despite Paul Hartley being without several influential players. Gary Irvine, Jim McAllister and Gary Harkins were ruled out, while top scorer Greg Stewart was only fit enough to occupy a place on the bench.
David Clarkson took over the main striking role looking for his first goal since the injury-time winner the Scottish Cup back in November but that never looked a likely occurrence. Dundee’s best opportunity in the first half came when Paul McGowan stole in on the blind side but his attempt to lob the ball over an advancing Jamie Langfield simply proved he is no Ivan Rakitic.
Mind you, Langfield clattered into the midfielder a split second late with referee Craig Thomson waving away strong penalties claims, something he was to repeat at the other end, much to Derek McInnes’s chagrin.
On that occasion Willie Dyer clearly blocked Niall McGinn’s shot with an outstretched arm with Thomson about the only one in the ground who detected no intent, so waved play on.
The Aberdeen manager deemed that to be the key decision in the game as Rooney had given them an overdue lead by then and a second at that point would surely have settled the outcome.
Rooney was played onside by a stray defender when receiving a delicious pass at the end of an incisive, direct run by former Hearts winger Andrew Driver on his debut appearance.
The Irishman’s finish in 36 minutes was emphatic and, even without a spot kick, it seemed that might be enough to gain a precious win but Aberdeen’s intensity dropped as the home side’s increased after the break.
That determination was rewarded with McGinn’s equaliser 20 minutes from time although Ryan Jack will still be feeling raw this morning about the Aberdeen midfielder’s role in surrendering it. He inexplicably chased down a ball going harmlessly out for throw near his own corner flag and only succeeded in backheeling it straight to Alex Harris. The player on loan from Hibs fully exploited the gift, whipping in a near-post cross that McGinn glanced between Langfield and the goalkeeper’s post for the midfielder’s first goal since returning to Scotland from Sheffield United.
At the other end, former Aberdeen goalkeeper Scott Bain capped a fine display with a fingertip save to deny Niall McGinn a late winner but generally Dundee defended diligently as a unit to see things out.
Post match, it was the turn of both managers to exhibit stout defending as Hartley and McInnes stood by players who had hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the build up to the match.
The Dundee manager made it clear he is prepared to stand by McGowan, even if his midfielder is given a custodial sentence next month after pleading guilty to a charge of police assault.
“I sense regret from Paul, he’s had a fright,” said Hartley. “He’s at an age where he needs to grow up and he knows that but we will stand by him 100 per cent. He knows he’s working with a manager who loves him to bits and we’ll try to help him as much as we can.
“He’s not the only person who has done things away from the football pitch but there has come a time where he needs to grow up because you don’t get many chances.”
Those are sentiments echoed by McInnes after Aberdeen striker David Goodwillie was splashed across the front page of the Sun on the morning of the match after being thrown out of one of the city’s nightclubs earlier in the week.
Like McGowan, Goodwillie is no stranger to the news section of newspapers and manager McInnes is obviously frustrated after giving the player a chance to rebuild his reputation at Pittodrie both on and off the park.
“I think he’s made a bad decision. He has to be more aware of being more professional at this stage of the season and we’ve spoken about that this week” was the manager’s succinct summing up.
Dundee: Bain, P.McGinn, Konrad, McPake, Dyer, Thomson, Ferry (Stewart 65), Harris (Wighton 82), S.McGinn, McGowan, Clarkson (Heffernan 76).
Aberdeen: : Langfield, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine, Jack, Flood, McGinn (Shankland 87), McLean, Driver (Pawlett 66), Rooney.
Referee: C Thomson. Attendance: 7,104