There was a major surprise to the Dons team line up with Ryan Jack coming straight back into the first team after his injury layoff. The midfielders return was well ahead of schedule. That was the only change, Ryan replacing Barry Robson. So Aberdeen lined up with Langfield in goal, Logan at right back, Tate retained his place in the side and partnered Reynolds in central defence and Considine was at left back. Jack and Flood were the sitting midfielders with Hayes on the left, McGinn on the right, Pawlett in front of the back two, supporting Rooney up front.
The game kicked off in perfect conditions, cold but dry. The opening five minutes were uneventful until a Hayes' cross almost created an opportunity for McGinn but he failed to get the control of the ball.
Then out of nothing on seven minutes the Dons opened the scoring. Reynolds, played a long ball into the corner which Considine chased down. The ball came back to Hayes who neatly turned and played the ball infield for Pawlett who in turn played it to Jack. The midfielder looked for options to his right but there was not a lot on so he decided to try his luck from about 20 yards out. His low shot was on target and did enough to beat Mannus. What a return! The keeper should have made the save but he slipped and was unable to push off either foot. Ryan won't care about that, his first goal of the season. During the celebrations Tate got all the players together to give them some instructions. It is certainly a major factor of the Dons success this season, they now have so many leaders on the park, something that has been missing in previous season. Alan had another very solid game today.
On 13 minutes a through ball to May saw the St Johnstone striker go in one on one on Langfield but he was flagged offside. It looked a tight call but the linesman had his flag up early. A warning for the Dons though. After 16 minutes, good play down the left again by Aberdeen, Hayes first of all put over a cross and then a good early ball from Considine led to MacKay putting the ball behind for a corner. A short corner never worked although they did win a second corner but Collum blew his whistle for an infringement. On 17 minutes Hayes played it to Pawlett who laid the ball back to Flood but his shot from the edge of the area was blocked.
The Dons were looking comfortable at this stage and playing some decent football.
St Johnstone had to be a bit more adventurous to get back into the game. Although they kept their 4-5-1 formation the Dons were still stretching them. On 19 minutes another good attack down the left and a good passing move saw Hayes put in a dangerous ball but it was well defended by MacKay at the front post.
On 21 minutes ex Don Gary McDonald played an excellent ball forward to Lee Croft. The Saints striker won the race to the ball, turned inside Reynolds but his low shot was comfortably saved by Langfield. Another warning for the Dons though. On 24 minutes Rooney had a decent effort which he tried to curl into the corner but Mannus did well even though the ball took a bobble in front of him. Two minutes later at the other end Wotherspoon had a shooting opportunity. He caught the ball well and his shot also bounced in front of the keeper but Jamie made a difficult save look very easy.The Dons then went up the park and Logan played in a good cross, Rooney went for a spectacular overhead kick but did not catch it properly.
On the half hour mark Hayes cut inside, instead of crossing with his left foot he had a shot with his right which Mannus gathered at his near post. Hayes certainly had the beating of full back Miller.
Then on 37 minutes the visitors really should have been on level terms. The chance came after a bizarre incident when the ball seemed to go out of play but bounced off the corner flag. The Dons seemed to stop but May quite rightly continued and ran in on goal. From a tight angle he hit a powerful shot which was blocked but the Dons could not clear it. The ball was eventually laid off to O'Halloran who from about 16 yards somehow managed to miss the target by pushing his shot wide. A major let off.
The Saints were actually enjoying some more possession but you still felt the Dons were the more likely team to get the next goal. On 41 minutes the Dons won their fourth corner, the first from the right side. McGinn's ball though was easily held by Mannus.
After a promising start the first half never really burst into life but the pitch was quite fiery and both teams were struggling to put too many passing moves together. Also with the players having to take a second touch to get the ball under control, they could not get the ball forward at any pace.
Just before the half time whistle, after a terrible passage of play from both teams, the Saints had a chance when a cross into the box landed at the feet of O'Halloran. He could have shot but instead decided to lay the ball off to May and in the end he made a total hash of it and they lost possession.
The action at the start of the second half was still very disjointed as both teams kept giving the ball away. A lot of the play was in the Aberdeen half though and the Saints were growing in confidence.
On 52 minutes a better passing move from the Dons, with Jack at the heart of it, but the final ball was just too strong for Rooney. Then Considine put over a good ball which just eluded Rooney. More encouraging signs from the Dons but that was about it in terms of their attacking intent during the second half. The Saints then dominated for the next 30 minutes or so. A cross by Easton was met by Croft but his header was weak. He really should have done a lot better.
On about the hour mark both managers had seen enough and they made changes. Ex Don Steven MacLean came on for Wotherspoon. Steven returned to action in midweek after a long injury lay off and scored two goals in the Motherwell game. He is still a very good player. It was a positive move from Tommy Wright, putting an attacker on for a midfielder. Meanwhile Ryan Jack and Niall McGinn came off for the Dons. Barry Robson and Cammy Smith came on, both like for like changes. Both Aberdeen players were involved straight away in the action. Robson took a free kick which Rooney put wide then a good burst down the left from Smith created an opening. He maybe should have shot but tried to play in Pawlett and his touch in the box let him down.
Moments later another let off for the Dons. The Aberdeen defence let a long ball over the top bounce. Croft then got goal side of Tate and Reynolds. A split second hesitation, and Croft looked likely to score. In the end Jamie Langfield did very well to stand big and deflect the ball behind for a corner.
Then the Saints sub MacLean was involved, he picked up a booked for a trip on Robson.
On 64 minutes the visitors came even closer to scoring. O'Halloran hit a great shot that beat Langfield but thankfully for the Dons thumped off the inside of the post and rebounded to safety. St Johnstone were by now really growing in confidence with a quarter of the game to go. The Dons had played little football in the second half and like on Tuesday night they were getting deeper and deeper. The corner count was 4-0 to the visitors in the second half highlighting their dominance.
On 72 minutes Dons at last broke at pace. Smith played a neat pass to Pawlett who looked like he was away by Mackay blocked him. Peter needed treatment, then continued but limped off minutes later. A major concern for the Dons ahead of the cup matches. He was replaced by Nicky Low with 12 minutes to go.
The final fifteen minutes were going to nervy. St Johnstone went for broke by bringing on Iwelumo for MacDonald then Hasselbaink replaced Croft. They were basically playing with five strikers. It only needed one of them to get the break of the ball in the box and the Dons would be in trouble. The Dons though, through Robson and Low, started to keep hold of the ball better. Jonny Hayes was also excellent at keeping the ball in the later stages. In the final few minutes the Saints could only have four strikers on the pitch when MacLean was booked for second time for a tackle on Low. It has to be said it was a very soft yellow card and Steven was very unlucky to be ordered off.
There were four minutes of injury time but the sending off had killed the Saints momentum. The Dons did a much better job at holding onto the ball and although some fans were getting frustrated that Aberdeen were not going for goal, the players were doing exactly the right thing, taking the ball into the corners and killing time.
Not a classic, but three more points.