Aberdeen were involved in seven goal thrilled in Perth this afternoon. Despite the loss of two late goals which led to a very nervous finish, the players deserve enormous praise for getting the win on the back of the Celtic result, making it four league wins out of four in 2016 and extending their unbeaten run to 12 matches.
Derek McInnes brought Cammy Smith and Peter Pawlett into the side and they had a big part to play in helping the Dons open up a two goal lead. Cammy showed great composure to play in Shay Logan and his cross was met by Adam Rooney after only five minutes. Peter Pawlett then scored a second before the 20 minute mark when his great free kick beat the wall and wrong footed Mannus.
The home side started the second half strongly and were rewarded when MacLean did well to set up Wotherspoon who produced a good finish. After an hour Storie and McGinn came on. Storie crucially helped the Dons regain control in the middle of the park and McGinn forced a mistake from Shaughnessy before Church very unselfishly square the ball for Niall to tap home the Dons third. Adam Rooney then scored his 18th goal of the season with a brilliant 50 yard run which saw him beat about four players before slotting past the keeper.
That should have been that but some tiredness crept in which allowed Anderson and then Scobbie to score from Saints corners. The Red Army though helped lift the players in the final few minutes and the Dons held for another vital win.
Andrew Considine was also meant to have come into the side today but he was injured in the warm up so Mark Reynolds came into the side and Scott McKenna moved from the stand to the bench. With ten minutes to go Scott came on to make his senior debut and in doing so became the latest AFC Youth Academy graduate to make it to the first team.
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After Wednesday night's energy sapping win over Derek McInnes made a number of changes with Cammy Smith, Peter Pawlett and Andrew Considine coming into the side. However Andrew unfortunately got injured in the warm up so Mark Reynolds came back into the starting XI and Scott McKenna moved from the stand to the bench.
Despite their very impressive 5-1 win over the Dons earlier in the season, the home side have been struggling a bit for a form in recent months and they had a number of players missing through injury. Joe Shaughnessy started in central defence. The former Don has had a fine season.
On a cold but dry day in Perth, Aberdeen got off to the perfect start. A poor clearance landed at the feet of Cammy Smith on the edge of the area. Cammy showed tremendous composure to control the ball and play a perfectly timed ball into the path of Logan who had time to look up and his cross to the back post was knocked in by Adam Rooney. What a start.
The Dons then started to knock the ball about confidently but the pitch, which was very soft underfoot, started to cut up badly and it was hard for either side to play much football.
In the 10th minute Reynolds was forced to give away a corner. Wotherspoon's short corner was played to Danny Swanson. It was a well worked moved and Swanson's shot was only half cleared to Tam Scobbie and his left footed volley rebounded off the post. A let off for the Dons.
In the 13th minute Shinnie played in Hayes and his blistering run created room for a cross. He picked out Simon Church but his header was well off target. In the 16th minute Cammy Smith had the ball at his feet inside the area. He was prevented from getting a shot on target by some desperate defending so played in Logan and his cross produced a better header from Church but Mannus was able to watch the ball just go over the bar. A minute later Logan again put over a great cross and Shinnie coming in at the back post was just prevented from get on the end of it. That led to a Dons corner which again was just headed over, this time by Taylor.
St Johnstone were struggling to cope with the Dons on the break. In the 18th minute Graeme Shinnie was the latest player to burst forward and his progress was only halted by a Liam Craig foul. Craig was rightly booked although it did look a good free kick to give away as it was a three on three situation. Peter Pawlett was the player who took the free kick, his low shot appeared to take a slight deflection which took the ball away from the diving Mannus and into the corner of the net. Not 20 minutes on the clock and Aberdeen were two ahead.
On 24 minutes a dangerous break by the home side but Fisher's cross went behind everyone. A minute later St Johnstone forced a corner but Taylor headed clear as the home side desperately tried to get back into the match.
Just before the half hour mark Shay Logan picked up a yellow card for a foul on Scobbie despite appearing to win the ball. That is Shay's sixth booking of the season so he will miss the St Johnstone home game because of a suspension. Then a few minutes after that Cammy Smith was also harshly booked after stopping a quick free kick being taken even though he was pushed in the way of the ball.
On 36 minutes Shinnie and Reynolds hesitated which allowed Wotherspoon to nip in and Scott Brown did very well to read the situation and get out quickly to save at the feet of Cumming.
After 40 minutes a massive let off for the Dons. Fisher played a ball over the top which the Dons defence did not deal with. Cumming had made a clever run in behind and found himself one on one with Brown. The Dons keeper was stuck in no man's land as he realised he could not get to the ball but he did brilliantly to do enough to force the Saints striker wide and in the end he was at such a tight angle he could only roll the ball across the goal line.
Like the first half, Aberdeen almost made a perfect start to the second half when Hayes' spotted Rooney and Adam did well to get above Fisher and knock the ball down to Church who nipped in ahead of Mannus. The Welsh striker had time to look up but his ball back across the box was over hit.
Aberdeen started to get a bit careless at the back as they struggled to clear their lines. They were getting bogged down. From a free kick Taylor headed it clear with Brown unable to get a touch. Scobbie lobbed the ball back in to the danger zone and with the keeper out of position Graeme Shinnie had to head the ball off the line.
Then on 52 minutes the home side pulled goal back.
Aberdeen failed to close down properly at a throw in. Steven MacLean did really well to hold the ball in before a clever flick set up Wotherspoon and he showed good composure to almost walk the ball into the net. A good finish.
The Saints got a massive lift from the goal and suddenly the Dons defence were under real pressure as the game was way too open. An example of this was on 57 minutes when at one end Reynolds made a vital interception. His ball forward found Hayes and he played in Rooney who had peeled away into space. Adam tried to bend the ball in at the far post but it went inches past with Mannus beaten.
An hour in Cammy Smith and Peter Pawlett were replaced by Niall McGinn and Craig Storie.
On 63 minutes Rooney and then Shinnie battled down the left. Shinnie put over a low cross which beat Mannus and Joe Shaughnessy did very well to clear the ball from under his own bar. The resulting McGinn corner was almost forced home at the back post. The ball even seemed to have come off the post. There were so many bodies in there it was difficult to see who had the shot - a real stramash. On 66 minutes another dangerous ball in Shinnie was again very well defended by Shaughnessy.
The Dons though were looking a bit more settled and the shape of the team looked better. On 68 minutes Swanson was booked for a foul on Church. Steven MacLean was then replaced by Chris Kane.
On 70 minutes Aberdeen got a third. Good pressing from the Dons saw St Johnstone defenders play the ball across their own back line. It was a dangerous tactic on the surface. Joe Shuaghnessy then got caught in possession by McGinn who played in Church. Simon could have scored as he was one on one with the keeper but very unselfishly squared the ball to Niall who tapped home. The goal was harsh on Joe as he had played very well up to that point.
A few minutes later Niall nipped in to get between Scobbie and Mannus but he could only poke the ball past the post. A minute later he put a shot over the bar from the edge of the area. His energy had certainly helped the Dons get back on the front foot.
And on 76 minutes in was four. It was a great solo effort from Rooney, arguably one the best goals he has scored for club. A loose pass allowed Hayes to pick the ball up and then he played it wide to Rooney who was 10 yards inside his own half. He then ran down the line, cut inside before cutting inside towards the box. He still had three blue jersey's round about him but he forced his way through and managed to beat the keeper with a low shot across him.
At that point it should have been game over.
But on 78 minutes the home side then pulled one back. A corner to the back post found Anderson who was completely unmarked and he appeared to head the ball against the back of Adam Rooney and the ball looped up over Scott Brown. 4-2.
On 81 minutes a Hayes corner found Taylor who put in a very good header but he directed it straight at Mannus. It was a better header than the one Anderson scored from a minute earlier. Mark Reynolds was then booked before Scott McKenna come on for Church to make his first team debut. Ten minutes before kick-off Scott had been sitting in the stand.
On 89 minutes a corner landed at the left foot of Tam Scobbie and his left footed volley from outside the box when through a ruck of players and landed in the bottom right corner despite Scott Brown getting a touch. 4-3.
Four minutes of added time were played.
The Red Army ten minutes earlier had been chanting for a fifth goal, now they were watching their team trying to hang on. The Dons players, most of whom had played 180 minutes on heavy pitches in the space of four days looked out on their feet. But credit to them, they managed to regroup and held on, with Scott McKenna impressively clearing a number of long played towards the Aberdeen goal.
Relief for the 3083 members of the Red Army when the final whistle sounded.