Willie Collum pays off for Aberdeen against Dundee as Christian Ramirez and Charlie Adam substitutions dominate

Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin did say pre-match that he was glad that Willie Collum – “one of Scotland’s most experienced referees” – would be the man in charge for this vital clash with Dundee in the cinch Premiership.

Lewis Ferguson hammers home Aberdeen's winning penalty against Dundee.
Lewis Ferguson hammers home Aberdeen's winning penalty against Dundee.

Goodwin delivered this observation with an impish grin last week which suggested he knew exactly what he was doing.

Flattery may or may not have influenced Collum’s decision to award Aberdeen a contentious second-half penalty in what proved the decisive moment of a hard-fought encounter. Jonny Hayes had been weaving with some menace in the box and Dundee defender Jordan Marshall was deemed to have tripped him.

Goodwin was certainly satisfied with the outcome and might, and later did, point to an earlier penalty appeal when Jack MacKenzie was felled – “wiped out,” according to the Aberdeen manager – under a Cammy Kerr challenge that had looked more likely to yield a penalty for the hosts. Collum waved play on to the Aberdeen fans’ fury.

Dundee's Charlie Adam after he was subbed against Aberdeen.

Goodwin’s mind games did not look so smart then but there was plenty of time left and Aberdeen upped the ante after a poor first-half display when Dundee dominated.

Things are suddenly now a lot rosier at Pittodrie although Goodwin was careful to note there should not be any over-celebration of what is, after all, just their second victory under him. “We should be beating Dundee more often than not at Pittodrie,” he said. Aberdeen are now eight points clear of 11th placed St Johnstone with a vastly superior goal difference.

Dundee’s position, meanwhile, is now more perilous at the bottom. “We are staying up!” chanted the Aberdeen fans after Lewis Ferguson converted the 73rd minute penalty – his ninth successful effort from ten attempts this season – with his customary aplomb. “Dundee’s going down!” these same fans baited, slightly prematurely.

The die will be cast if Mark McGhee’s side lose at St Mirren on Saturday and St Johnstone can beat Livingston. St Johnstone’s defeat to St Mirren does mean some hope exists. It’s also reason for the visitors to reflect even more bitterly on their failure to take a number of good chances in the opening half.

Christian Ramirez can't hide his emotion after being subbed.

Cheered on by a sizeable, noisy following, Dundee put their relegation worries to one side. Untethered by the knowledge they have nothing much left to lose, they took the game to an anxious Aberdeen side and could, perhaps should, have been two goals to the fore within the opening half an hour. This period actually summed up their problems and underlines why they are where they are. A lack of clinical edge means they are letting teams off the hook.

Some impressive goalkeeping from Joe Lewis was also partly to account for their failure to score. The ‘keeper pulled off a terrific fingertip save from Danny Mullen’s curling effort after 17 minutes and made a good block on the line from Paul McGowan’s stab goalwards. The home supporters were growing audibly restless.

An attempt by Aberdeen to score straight from the kick-off could be interpreted one of two ways. Either the hosts are overdosing on confidence or else they feared it might represent one of limited opportunities to get a shot on target. Ferguson took a leaf out of Charlie Adam’s book and unleashed an ambitious effort from his own half that had recalled Dundee ‘keeper Harry Sharp frantically backtracking. The ball dipped just over the bar.

The Aberdeen fans enjoyed Ferguson’s chutzpah. There was little of said quality on show thereafter as the home side struggled to break out of defence as Dundee employed a high press. Ferguson did test Sharp with a deflected effort and Vicente Besuijen employed his wiles on the byeline but his cross was just behind the recalled Christian Ramirez.

Otherwise, it was the visitors who were creating the best chances and who rued going in at the interval still on level terms. The flow of the game shifted almost immediately after the re-start. Besuijen shifted to the left flank and caused Dundee untold problems alongside rampaging full-back MacKenzie. A clever through ball from Ramirez released Mackenzie just two minutes into the second half and the youngster ended up in a heap as Kerr slid in. There were loud appeals for a penalty but Collum was unmoved. Goodwin shook his head on the sidelines.

Aberdeen reacted well to that frustration and the impressive Besejuin was inches away from opening the scoring after a solo run but he then pushed his shot just too wide of the far post. The game’s dynamic had clearly shifted in favour of Aberdeen but McGhee’s attempt to rectify things still seemed curious. He substituted Adam, who had been directing Dundee’s play well in the first half, after 51 minutes. The veteran skipper made no effort to hide his anger at the decision and ignored the manager as he took a seat in the dugout. Josh Mulligan, 19, replaced him. An irritated McGhee afterwards refused to take more than one question on the switch. "He wasn't injured, it was tactical," he said.

Mulligan wasted a good chance to equalise when his header hit the ground and bounced over with nine minutes left. Dundee centre-half Ryan Sweeney also saw his header cleared off the line by the well-placed Calvin Ramsay.

Goodwin took his own slightly contentious decision to replace Ramirez, the striker who has still to score under him, after 67 minutes. The American had just been denied by a very good Sharp save and had endured a difficult afternoon when little came off for him in a role where he was playing just behind Marley Watkins. Teddy Jenks, a more natural No 10, replaced him and Aberdeen made the breakthrough minutes later.

“I didn’t think he (Ramirez) played terribly,” said Goodwin. “But as a manager at that moment, when it is still 0-0, you have to make decisions that will have a positive impact on the game.

"Listen, Christian came off at 0-0 and we won the game 1-0, so maybe it was the right call.”