Derek McInnes was forced into making a number of defensive changes as Mark Reynolds and Andrew Considine were kept out of the side through injury and suspension respectively. Anthony O'Connor was handed a start and captain Ryan Jack reappeared. Jayden Stockley kept his place in the starting XI after an impressive game in the cup last week. The Dons had six attacking players on the bench.
It was a famous night at Pittodrie the last time Motherwell visited. A 7-2 victory for the Dons was arguably the best performance of the season but even early on you could tell there was going to be no comfortable win this afternoon. Motherwell looked well up for this and caused some problems. The opening 20 minutes were very even.
Kenny McLean's been in fine form this season and was spreading the ball around nicely in the opening stages. He delivered a great ball into the box from the right. His early cross was met by Rooney who got a firm head on the ball but couldn't get it on target.
The Dons had a good chance to take the lead after 17 minutes when McGinn caught Jules napping on the ball. Rooney came away as McGinn peeled away but Rooney had a shot and couldn't get the connection he wanted on his effort from outside the box. It was great play from Niall who looked disappointed not to have been slipped through on goal.
The Steelmen looked far more organised than their last trip up to the North East, and could have gone in front when Ben Heneghan got above Ash Taylor from a free kick. His header hit the side netting. After 25 minutes it was looking like the Dons were going to have to battle it out if they were going to come away with all 3 points. The game became very stop start and there were a lot of fouls in the middle of the park. Motherwell were going a very good job at breaking the game up.
The Dons did finally have a spell of decent pressure towards the end of the half.
Craig Samson was forced into making his first save of the game when Niall McGinn picked the ball up when Kenny McLean appeared to be fouled at the edge of the box. Nothing was given, so the Dons played on. The cross came into the box for Rooney to flick on. The goalkeeper had to be alert as he tipped the ball over the bar. Then a Kenny McLean strike from outside the box kept Craig Samson working hard, as the visitors looked to see the half out at 0-0. Kenny's effort was well struck but straight at the keeper.
It was scoreless at the break after an even 45 minutes of football.
HT Aberdeen 0-0 Motherwell
After the restart it still wasn't happening for the Dons who were struggling to break the visitors down. Any time they went long Stockley was extremely well marshalled whilst Hayes and McGinn were struggling to run with the ball because of the conditions.
Ash Taylor had a go from an advanced position curling a shot just wide of the post after a couple of corner had been cleared. Jonny Hayes then had a couple of bursting runs forward but the ball was bobbling about and Motherwell were defending robustly.
Kenny McLean was the main source of inspiration for Aberdeen, he was outstanding this afternoon, and on the hour mark he whipped a tempting ball across at pace. Stockley was lurking at the back post but he couldn't quite connect with it. After the hour mark, Ryan Jack had a header which roll just past the post after a Niall McGinn cross. It was the type of chance the Dons would need to take if they were to make the break through.
The best chance of the game came after 66 minutes when McLean picked out Graeme Shinnie at the back post from a central position. Unfortunately Shinnie got too much power on the shot which sent it over the bar. It looked like a great chance but it was not easy for Shinnie to steer the ball towards goal.
The ball was following to midfielders and not strikers inside the area.
Unlike the first half Motherwell had offered little in attack in the second period but won a corner in the 70th minute and were a whisker away from sneaking it into the net. It was cleared away by O'Connor who hooked the ball off the line. This then opening up a great counter attacking chance. McGinn played a superb pass before bombing forward as Hayes took the ball for a run. The through ball was good, but Samson times his dash out perfectly and managed to get to the ball just ahead of McGinn. It was very good goalkeeping from Samson who had a fine game.
After 73 minutes, top scorer Adam Rooney came off for Ryan Christie. He made an instant impact opening up the Motherwell defence, creating chances for McGinn and McLean who had low shots. Both efforts were well saved by Craig Samson again.
It was all hands to the pump for the last 10 minutes as Miles Storey came on for Anthony O'Connor. Anthony had been solid at the back but the Dons were going for the win.
Motherwell's defence was beginning to look like something you would see in rugby as they threw themselves at everything. It was making life difficult for the Dons forwards and causing frustration throughout Pittodrie. The visitors were also taking every opportunity to slow the game down when they could. This added to the frustration even although they had a couple of players booked for time wasting.
Five minutes of injury time was added on to the match, about right - wasn't a surprise given how stop start the game had been.
Jonny Hayes had been having one of his toughest battles on the left wing in a long time. He had been in the wars on a number of occasions. In the 92 minute McLean sprayed one final cross-field pass which allowed Hayes to attack his left wing. Jonny swung in a low cross, into a good area, and finally the ball landed at the feet of an Aberdeen striker inside the area. Hayes picked out Niall McGinn in the crowded penalty box. Niall calmly directed a first time shot into the right corner of the net. Pittodrie erupted!!
Motherwell looked totally deflated, after 90 minutes of solid defending and giving everything, it looked like they would be walking away empty handed.
The Dons went straight for the corner after the restart, and kept it there for the remaining minutes of the game and saw it out comfortably. It was a great result given how tough a match it had been. Aberdeen once again sit nine points in front of Rangers in second place.