After a torrid couple of weeks for the football club, Aberdeen dug really deep on a drizzly night down at McDiarmid Park to bring football back to the forefront of everyone's minds, put three points on the board and get the 2020/21 campaign properly underway.
Some 19 days after opening the season against Rangers, Derek McInnes made five changes to his starting XI for the trip to St Johnstone. In came debutant Ross McCrorie, just three days after joining from Rangers, Niall McGinn, Tommie Hoban, Dean Campbell and Scott Wright, while added to the bench were youngsters Michael Ruth and Jack MacKenzie. Missing out were Scott McKenna, Bruce Anderson, Craig Bryson and Matty Kennedy - the latter two taking a place on the bench - along with the suspended Andy Considine whilst Michael Devlin, Sam Cosgrove, Curtis Main and Ryan Edmondson also joined the long unavailable list.
Having had the full hand of a win, draw and a defeat in their opening three games, the Saints made just two changes from their 2-1 win at Kilmarnock last Saturday, where they grabbed both goals in the last five minutes. David Wotherspoon, who scored the equaliser against Killie, and Jamie McCart came into the side at the expense of Shaun Rooney and Craig Conway who dropped to the bench, Saints naming just seven subs.
The Dons started with McCrorie, Ash Taylor and Hoban as a back three with Ronald Hernández and Jonny Hayes at wing-back. Funso Ojo, Dean Campbell were in the centre of the park, Niall McGinn and Scott Wright either side of Lewis Ferguson up front.
McGinn had the game's first shot on target, played in by Wright after the Dons caught St Johnstone napping down the right with a quickly taken throw in the eighth minute, Parish saving comfortably. That aside, with both sides looking rusty, it was a scrappy opening, interrupted by a snapshot from McNamara from the edge of the box which forced Joe Lewis to push the ball over on the quarter hour.
Hendry required treatment in the 26th minute after going up for a header with Ash Taylor but he was eventually able to resume. Good defending from Taylor then prevented Hendry getting away a shot after he picked Campbell's pocket in midfield and surged 30 yards towards goal.
Aberdeen began to come onto their game as the half wore on and Funso Ojo wasn't far away from an opener in the 38th minute after some terrific possession football from the Dons. A great touch and turn from Wright got him running away from a defender before feeding Jonny Hayes, and his cross to the back post was met acrobatically on the volley by Ojo, the ball flashing back across goal and just wide.
HALF-TIME: ST JOHNSTONE 0 ABERDEEN 0
There were changes at the break for the Dons, Matty Kennedy and Connor McLennan joining the fray in place of Dean Campbell and Ronald Hernández, McLennan going up front with Ferguson dropping back into his more familiar role in midfield.
Hendry had the second half's first sight of goal, slicing wide from the edge of the box in the 51st minute. Almost immediately, Ferguson collected the first yellow card of the game for a challenge on O'Halloran. Saints won a corner from the free-kick to keep the pressure on but it came to nothing as the game returned to its early first half torpor with the rain lashing down.
Parish made a straightforward save from a McGinn lob in the 64th minute after good work in holding the ball up from Ojo, though the players were still clearly searching for match sharpness in just the second game of the campaign - though in all honesty, Saints didn't look any more lively.
Hoban should have had the Dons in front in the 68th minute, McGinn's free-kick coming in from the left, Hoban climbing highest at the back post but glancing his header wide of goal when the chance was there to score. Bryson then replaced Ojo for Aberdeen, Conway on for Hendry for the hosts. Things were looking brighter for the Dons now, Kennedy firing in a dangerous cross from the right in the 73rd minute, St Johnstone doing well to clear their lines.
The hosts made their next change in the 76th minute, Olaofe replacing Wotherspoon up front, the Dons making another switch with the introduction of Ryan Hedges for McGinn three minutes later.
That change became a masterstroke three minutes later, Hedges picking the ball up on the right wing before cutting inside, into the box and driving in a low shot that clipped Gordon on its way into the bottom corner. Shay Logan immediately came on for the first time this season in place of Wright as the Dons looked to see things out.
Rooney and Robertson were then thrown on by Saints in the 85th minute in place of McNamara and Gordon as they tried to salvage the game. It almost worked, Conway immediately slashing a shot through the box and just wide.
Tempers started to fray in the dying stages, Hedges and Craig going into the book for an altercation on the touchline, McCrorie joining them after stretching into a tackle on O'Halloran. But as Saints became more frustrated, Aberdeen saw it through to the 90 minutes, marshalled brilliantly by man of the match Ash Taylor, taking the three points back up the road to the very obvious delight of the players, a post-match huddle between players and manager underlining the real togetherness there is in a squad willing to fight to the end for one another.