Craig Brown was forced into a late change as Youl Mawene had to pull out with a calf strain. As a result Kari Arnason went back into central defence to partner Andrew Considine and Peter Pawlett came into the midfield in an attacking looking line up. The other change saw Fraser Fyvie return after suspension and Darren Mackie dropped to the bench.
With David Gonzalez's loan period now over and with the goalkeeper having returned to Manchester City, Jamie Langfield was the substitute keeper. The Dons number one got a great reception from the Aberdeen fans during the warm up.
The game kicked off in a superb atmosphere. The Dons travelling support numbered about 4,000 and it felt more like a home game. It was the home side though that started the game strongly. On three minutes they very nearly took the lead. A cross from the right was dropped by Brown and the ball just went behind for a corner. Johnny Russell was only inches away from getting a touch as the ball just went past the post. Major let off for the Dons. Aberdeen did not settle after that and the defence and goalkeeper looked all at sea. Then minutes later from a United corner Brown elected to punch a cross that he probably should have caught. He got no distance from his clearance and the Dons struggled to hack it clear. On the edge of the box Robbie Neilson appeared to foul Pawlett but he bulldozed his way through and the ball broke to captain John Daly who was completely unmarked. The striker hit a shot across Brown which went in off the post even although Aberdeen had a defender there. A really poor goal to lose.
Aberdeen now looked nervous at the back and they were fortunate United were not able to create any clear cut openings. Credit to Arnason and Considine who eventually managed to get to grips with the game. However the Dons were creating nothing going forward which was putting more pressure on the defence. The midfield was just not getting a foot hold.
After 26 minutes the Dons finally managed to get something going.
Foster powered down the left. His cross picked out Fallon on the edge of the box and although the big New Zealander managed to get a shot on target Pernis held the ball well. Then Ryan Jack had a shot from distance which was again well handled by Pernis. Although the conditions were better than previous weeks the sleet showers were making the surface slippery and the difficult for the keepers.
On 28 minutes the lively Gary Mackay-Steven kept the ball in play, he got to the byline but Considine did really well to keep the ball out after being put under pressure from Daly. On the half hour mark Scott Vernon took a nasty looking head knock. Thankfully after treatment he was able to continue and he almost scored a few minutes later. Fallon shielded the ball before he laid it off to Vernon, his shot was blocked by the last defender, excellent defending from Dillon as the striker's effort looked goal bound.
Fyvie was by now coming more into the game and trying to getting some passing going but there was still not enough coming from Aberdeen in the middle of the park.
On 37 minutes more nervous at the back from Aberdeen as Considine and Brown very nearly conspired to score the own goal of the season. Thankfully Considine's pass back was weak and the keeper was able to get back and recover the situation.
Then on 40 minutes a real let off for the Dons. United pushed forward at pace and the Dons defence momentarily were out of position. Daly was taken down by Considine and the home side screamed for a penalty. On first evidence it looked as though they had a strong case. As they were appealing Daly got a shot in and Brown in the end made a good save.
Just before half time Vernon was almost through on goal after a defensive mistake but he did not have enough pace. Milsom laid it into the path of Fyvie but he blasted high and wide. Foster then crossed after a well worked break. His cross was cleared to Jack at the edge of the box but he could not get his shot away.
Aberdeen came out in the second half and right from the kick off looked in far more of a determined mood. Foster put in a good cross from deep and Vernon was very close to getting a touch. Then Vernon did well to beat Dillion on the half way line and won a corner. Again the set piece the delivery was poor from Milsom.
Pawlett, Jack and Foster then combined and the captain again put in a good cross. This was much better from the Dons. Pawlett then played in Milsom who crossed but the ball was just out of reach of Fallon. Then Foster crossed but the keeper took it well. Aberdeen were starting to dominating possession and their passing was much better. Although they were not penetrating United they were working the ball to the flanks and getting some good crosses in.
Pawlett fouled McKay-Steven on the edge of the box which gave United a free kick in a dangerous position. The Aberdeen wall stood firm though and the Dons were able to clear the danger after giving away another corner. Then Pawlett did really well at the other end. McKay Steven brought down Osbourne and the United player was correctly booked. From the free kick Pawlett won a header and Pernis clawed it clear from under his bar. A much better ball from Milsom who was celebrating his 25th birthday today.
On the hour mark the first tactical changes of the afternoon.
Peter Pawlett was taken off which did not go down well with the Aberdeen fans. He was just beginning to look influential and his pace was opening up the game a bit. Rory McArdle was his replacement and went into the centre half spot. Arnason was pushed forward into the midfield engine room and Ryan Jack went out to the right. United then brought on Willo Flood for MacKay-Steven. Then five minutes later Fallon made way for Mo Chalali.
And what a substitution it proved to be.
United were not happy with the award a of thrown in to Aberdeen and they were even more unhappy a few seconds later.A long throw by Arnason was flicked on by McArdle at the near post and Mo Chalali powered home a headed from the six yard box with his first touch of the ball. The striker was understandably delighted to have scored his first Aberdeen goal. So were the travelling Red Army who came to life again. You could almost visibly see the confidence fill back into the Aberdeen players.
However it was United who almost regained the lead. The ball from a free kick fortuitously fell to Russell in the box and he had space to get a shot away but Considine somehow managed to get back to save the day as his block hit the post. A fantastic bit of defending. Then from the corner Jason Brown made himself big at the back post and blocked well from Daly after Aberdeen were out muscled in the box. A good save. At this point you felt it might just be our day.
Back came Aberdeen. Jack did really well down the right. With everyone expecting Arnason to come over a take the long one, Jack took a quick throw to put Vernon in. He crossed the ball for Milsom coming in at the back post and with the midfielder completely unmarked and with an open goal in front of him he failed to connect. What a chance. Maybe it was not going to be our day.
With 15 minutes to go it was now a really good game as it became stretched. Both teams were going for the winner. Arnason, was now running the show and he almost put in Chalali with a clever pass and then at the other end Dixon headed over from a corner. With just over 7 minutes to go Chris Clark replaced Rob Milsom. A direct swap as Clark went over to the left hand side.
Then with 85 minutes on the clock came the winner. And it was a goal worthy of winning any game.
Kari Arnason picked the ball up in midfield about 40 yards out. Although he had runners either side of him the Icelandic International only had one thing on his mind. He looked up and hit a superb shot which dipped, crashed off the bottom of the bar and bounced over the line. The Dons fans went delirious.
The last five minutes or so were very nervy as United threw everything at Aberdeen to try and get back into the game. Ryan Jack headed the ball over the bar. It was a really good clearance as it looked as though the ball was going in. United had a number of corner and Aberdeen were just throwing bodies in the way of shots. McArdle and Considine were immense at the back.
The final whistle finally came after three minutes of injury time. It was followed by a standing ovation from the Red Army and equally the players responded by thanking the fans.
A good start to 2012.