Aberdeen won a very hard fought victory this afternoon in Airdrie against a Motherwell side who can consider themselves very unfortunate not to take something from the game. It was an entertaining match with plenty of talking points. After an even first 20 minutes the home side won a penalty after Henry was adjudged to have handled in the box. A questionable decision. Mutch brilliantly saved the spot kick from ex Scotland striker David Clarkson but could do nothing minutes later when Clarkson hammered the ball past him. The home side then dominated the match and Aberdeen did well to hold out. On the stroke of half time a lifeline for the Dons when against the run of play the impressive Frank Ross won the Dons a penalty which Shankland converted. Paul Sheerin's side showed a lot more energy in the second half and on 67 minutes they took the lead after producing their best move of the game. Storie broke into the box and just as he was away to shoot Kennedy was adjudged to have caught his trailing leg. A penalty was awarded and a red card was produced. Shankland made no mistake from the spot and the Dons then had a few chances to claim a third. They failed to make the game save though and the ten men of Motherwell played very well in the closing stages with Dom Thomas causing real problems. Aberdeen struggled to get any control and the Lanarkshire side wasted some really good opportunities. They were also very unlucky as on a couple of occasions the ball went right across the goal line. Aberdeen held on though for a good win and Paul Sheerin knows his team can play better in the months ahead.
The young Dons lined up with Mutch in goal, Henry at right-back, Liam Lambert made his debut on the opposite flank and Rose and Culjak were in central defence. Thomas and Storie were the central midfielders with Ross and Wright on the wings and Smith and Shankland up front. Motherwell fielded a strong line-up that included Clarkson and Thomas who had both come off the bench to play against the Dons on Saturday. The early stages were very tight and scrappy as both teams settled into the game.
Ten minutes in, Storie played a good forward ball that was matched by the run of Ross who got in behind the last defender and showed good strength to hold off Kennedy but Twardzik was out quickly to make a very good save. Then at the other end Leitch saw his shot deflected just go wide. On 12 minutes, Ross did well down the right to find space. His picked out Smith who had made a run to the near post and Cammy got a shot on target but Twardzik had his angles correct and beat the ball away. Five minutes later, Aberdeen failed to deal with a cross from the right. The ball broke to Leitch whose shot hit Henry on the arm and the referee pointed to the spot, even although Well played on and put the ball in the net. It seemed a harsh decision as Henry was only a few yards away and had his arm in a natural position and to add insult to injury, he was also booked. Clarkson took the spot kick but Mutch, diving to his left, made a brilliant save. However from the resulting corner, Clarkson made amends when the Dons failed to clear their lines. When the ball eventually fell to the former Scotland striker, he hammered the ball past Mutch at his near post.
After 24 minutes, Clarkson very nearly added a second when he jinked his way into the box but Lambert did well to come across and make a last ditch tackle. The goal lifted Motherwell who looked the more confident side. They were also defending solidly with Smith and Shankland having few scraps to feed on. Just after the half hour mark, the home side won a free-kick right on the edge of the area after Culjak was adjudged to have hauled down Leitch. Chalmers tried to curl the ball over the wall but failed. Mutch then did well to keep out a Lambert deflected tackle which was heading goalwards and Dom Thomas, who impressed on Saturday, should have done better after he had beaten the last defender but he went for power instead of placement and hammered a shot high and wide. To add to what was a frustrating half for Aberdeen, Shankland picked up a yellow card but towards the end of the half, Aberdeen finally started to come back into the game with Frank Ross impressing. On a couple of occasions he almost linked with Smith but the final pass just went awry.
On the stroke of half-time Ross picked the ball up in a good area and his quick feet won a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Smith blasted the ball into the wall but it broke to Ross and again he was too quick for Chalmers who stuck out a leg and brought him down. Penalty. Shankland took the spot kick and made no mistake as he waited for Twardzik to move before hammering it down the middle of the goal. It was against the run of play but gave the Dons a massive lift going into the break.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Shankland could have had a second. Wright put over a great ball which Lawrence met, but his header was straight at Twardzik. Then at the other end, Thomas caused real problems but he his shot was dragged wide. The second half was a much more even affair as Aberdeen were now playing a lot better, but the early chances came Motherwell's way. On 52 minutes, Leitch had the ball in the net but the flag was up and six minutes later, Dylan Thomas did his job from a corner by staying by the post and he was able to clear the ball off the line. He was then replaced by Sam Robertson on the hour mark, Sam going to right-back with Jamie Henry moving into the middle of the park. On 65 minutes, Thomas got round Lambert but his ball across the six yard box picked out Culjak.
On 67 minutes came the main talking point in the game. A great Aberdeen move saw Storie break into the box but just as he was about to shoot, central defender Kennedy made a tackle. Although he appeared to also get the ball, he also appeared to clip the heel of Storie. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and producing a red card for the Motherwell man, a seemingly harsh decision. Shankland again stepped forward and put the ball firmly into the corner of the net. Last season's top scorer has now scored three goals in his first two games. Against the ten men, Aberdeen had a good little spell as they pushed for a third goal. On 72 minutes, Rose poked a shot just past the post and then a Shankland header found the roof of the net. Ross almost beat Twardzik with a first time effort as Aberdeen pressed, but the former Don made a very good save. Credit to the ten men of Motherwell who then played very well in the final stages.
The game became very stretched, which did not suit the Dons as Dom Thomas was getting so much space to attack. On 81 minutes, Paul Sheerin moved Robertson to left-back and Norris came on for Lambert. The Dons failed to control the match in the final minutes as well as they would have liked and Thomas continued to create some great chances. On two more occasions, he put the ball right across the face of goal and Mutch produced one very good save as, somehow, the Dons' goal remained intact and they held on for a very good win.