What a moment for young Connor McLennan. Making his first start for the U20s, at Peterhead where he is from, on the eve of his final day at Peterhead Academy before joining AFC as a full time professional, The Scotland U17 striker scored a late winner at Balmoor to help a makeshift U20s side finish 2015 with a fine victory over a strong Motherwell side.
Aberdeen were hit with some late call offs due to injury and the flu. They were without defenders Lukas Culjak, Sam Robertson and Jamie Henry, winger Scott Wright and striker Joe Nuttall as well as long term injury casualties Kalvin Orsi, Liam Lambert and Stewart Rennie. So the Dons lined up with Scott Brown in goal, a back four of MacPherson, Storie, McKenna and Harvie. The midfield was Norris, Thomas, Ross and Anderson with Smith and then McLennan up front. Motherwell had James McFadden in their line up as well as Louis Laing and Dom Thomas. The game had been in serious doubt due to the strong winds. The officials had concerns but allowed the game to go ahead. The wind was so strong the coin toss was going to crucial - and Aberdeen lost it. Straight from the kick off Motherwell forced the Dons back with some early pressure. They won a couple of corners and McFadden produced a good bit of skill as he dipped the shoulder to beat a couple of Aberdeen defenders but landed up running the ball out of play.
On 8 minutes during a rare Aberdeen raid to the other end of the pitch, a free kick almost found Storie but he could not quite get his head on it and then from the other side a good ball by Harvie almost found the head of Anderson. After 11 minutes Dom Thomas, who had a very good game, put over a very dangerous ball across the six yard box and in the end McKenna did very well to scoop the ball off his own line. But on 12 minutes Motherwell took the lead when a free kick out wide from Watt went straight in. It was not clear what the free kick was given for, but full back Watt hit a low effort which Anderson failed to connect with and the ball sneaked in at the near post. Brown had no chance.
Brown then made a very smart stop before the Dons equalised in bizarre fashion. It is the season of giving gifts and Motherwell gave the home side an early Christmas present this afternoon. On 16 minutes some indecision in the 'Well defence, saw Laing putting the ball past his own keeper and into his own net. The on rushing Long could do little when the ball went past him. Dylan Thomas had just put a hopeful ball forward and there was no one in a red jersey near the pair of them. For the rest of the half the Steelmen continued to attack with winger Thomas in particular causing problems down the left and McFadden was putting over some decent corners but Storie, who played in central defence today, and McKenna were both outstanding and held firm from all the balls that were put on top of them. The last time the young Dons were at Balmoor they coped well playing into the wind but it really was too strong for them to get any passing moves going. Any balls off the ground were going backwards.
On the stroke of half time a real turning point in the game. As the ball bounced away towards the touchline Livingstone launched into a two footed tackle on Norris. Although he got the ball both feet were well off the ground and referee produced a red card instantly. There were no complaints from any Motherwell players.
After the break the Dons had the man advantage but the wind had almost completely died down during the half time interval. Aberdeen still had all the possession but were struggling to create anything of note as Motherwell defended strongly. In fact it was probably the Lanarkshire side who had the better chances. On 65 minutes a slack back pass from the Dons defence let Cadden in. Storie did well to force him wide and his cross sailed across the box before the rest of the Dons defence were able to recover the situation at the back post. On 70 minutes McFadden made room for himself but his shot was brilliantly blocked by McKenna. Dom Thomas was still causing problems and substitute Seb Ross was well positioned to prevent a dangerous cross reaching a claret and amber shirt. On 82 minutes the first real opening for Aberdeen. Harvie put over a driven cross which Smith controlled before teeing up Frank Ross but his shot was always on the rise.
Then when the game looked to be heading for a draw Aberdeen scored a brilliant winner. From a Motherwell corner they defended it well, as they had done all afternoon and Harvie headed the ball clear. Ross picked it up and ran with the ball. He did really well to get over the half way line before playing the ball down the line to substitute David Dangana. The U17 star then put over a superb cross towards Connor McLennan who was coming in at the back post. Connor still had a lot to do as he had little of the goal to aim at but produced a brilliant first time finish to put the ball across the keeper into the far corner of the net. An outstanding goal that deserved to win any game.