Aberdeen U20s began the defence of their SPFL Development League title with a solid win over St Mirren this evening in Pitmedden. The young Saints started the better and Scott Brown had to make a couple of good blocks to keep them at bay. From there, over the last 20 minutes of the first half, Paul Sheerin's side stepped it up a gear and played some excellent stuff. On the half hour mark, Frank Ross dribbled into the box and when he went down, a penalty was given. Lawrence Shankland, the league's top scorer last season, made no mistake from the spot to open his account for the season. Then, five minutes later, Craig Storie picked the ball up and drove forward before cracking a shot from the edge of the box into the corner of the net. Both goalscorer, along with Michael Rose, had especially impressive games tonight. The second half had a similar pattern to the first. St Mirren again began the better and on the hour mark, Brown was forced to made a superb one on one block. That spurred the Dons into action and they managed the remainder of the game comfortably, without creating any more clear-cut chances.
Aberdeen lined up with Brown in goal. With Harvie and McKenna both out Sam Roberston went to left back and Jamie Henry filled in at right back. Rose and Culjak continued their partnership in central defence - it was a partenership which help the Dons win the title during the second half of the season. Craig Storie captained the side from the middle of the park. Alongside him was Dylan Thomas. Wright was wide left, Ross played on the right With Arron Norris inbehind Shankland. St Mirren had arrived late at North Lodge Park due to the traffic in Aberdeen so kick off was delayed by 20 minutes. Despite the long bus journey and the shortened warm up the Paisley side started the game strongly. On 7 minutes Scott Brown was forced made a very good save to keep out the impressive Conor O'Keefe. The little winger had a fine game. Minutes later the Dons keeper had to look very lively to get off his line and block Lewis Mclear. Michael Rose then had to make a great last ditch tackle to prevent Pooler from breaking through. On the 20 minute mark McLear then wasted another good chance when he put a shot just wide. Brown was for once beaten.
The Dons were struggling to deal with the quick breaks from St Mirren but slowly Storie and Thomas started to get to grips with the central midfield area which then brought Ross and Wright into the game. On 24 minutes out of nothing Shankland showed good strength to hold off his marker and all of a sudden he was one on one with the keeper. Dan Wilkes in the end a made very good save as he was able to block the shot from close range. That seemed to lift the young Dons and after half an hour Frank Ross showed great skill to weave his way into the box. When he was brought down the referee initially did not give it but lineswomen Morag Pirie was well positioned and she raised her flag. Lawrence Shankland, who scored a number of penalties last season, made no mistake to make it 1-0 to Aberdeen. After 35 minutes a Ross free kick was met by Lucas Culjak at the back post but he headed over. The Dons were now playing with confidence and knocking the ball about well with plenty of good movement. On 34 minutes Shankland produced a really neat turn but he failed to find Wright in the box. Then on 36 minutes in was 2-0. After a consistant spell of pressure Craig Storie picked the ball up about 25 yards out. He strolled forward before unleashing a great strike low into the corner of the net. The keeper did not even move.
Towards the end of the half Aberdeen continued to look good with the link up play between the forward players a joy to watch. Shankland picked out Wright after getting to the by-line but he volleyed over. Then a Ross free kicked was well worked as it left Culjack unmarked at the back post but the keeper made a save at his near post.
St Mirren come out strongly after the break as they tried to get back into the game. On 53 minutes Whyte hit a free kick which just went past the post. A minute a superb long pass from Storie set Ross free down the left. He made for the by-line before cutting the ball back to Shankland but his weak shot was saved. Lawrence will be disappointed that he did not make more of the chance. On the hour mark the vistors worked the ball well across the area until O'Keefe was unmarked and just had Brown to beat. The keeper got out very quickly and made another very good block. A brilliant save from Brown. Again that acted as a wakeup call and Aberdeen regained control. For the last 20 minutes or so they managed the game well and kept hold of possession. They had a couple of half chances - Sam Robertson shot wide and Shankland set up Bruce Anderson but he pulled his shot past the post.
In the closing stages both Ross and Wright worryingly went off with knocks but hopefully neither were too serious.