The Dons opened 2024 in emphatic style, a comprehensive victory at Dingwall in a game that they controlled from start to finish, and could have won by even more than the three goal margin they enjoyed.
For the first game of 2024, there were three changes to the Aberdeen side with Jack MacKenzie, Dante Polvara and Connor Barron all returning to the starting XI. Richard Jensen and Duk were on the bench, the injured James McGarry missing from the matchday squad.
Having drawn 2-2 at Tynecastle on Saturday, Ross County made just one change, Victor Loturi replacing Scott Allardice in their starting team.
It was a sharp start from the Dons, twice getting forward in the opening couple of minutes, Jamie McGrath having a shot deflected behind after good work from Graeme Shinnie.
Great work from McGrath almost had Aberdeen in front on six minutes, a slide rule pass almost getting Polvara in. Laidlaw charged off his line to intercept it 25 yards out, but his clearance hit Polvara and headed goalward, looping just wide of the target.
The game was pretty scrappy from there until it erupted back into life on 24 minutes when the Dons grabbed the lead. A good interception by Shinnie was followed by a nice pass from the skipper that set Bojan Miovski away. His initial cross was blocked but he picked up the rebound and centred for McGrath. He took one touch to get the ball down about a dozen yards out, and then fired his shot past a flatfooted Laidlaw and in.
McGrath doubled the advantage on 31, one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score after being set up by Leighton Clarkson. Collecting the ball off Miovski, Clarkson nutmegged Baldwin to advance into the box before, with the goalkeeper coming towards him, he squared for the oncoming McGrath to roll into an empty net from eight yards out.
Miovski wasn’t far away from a third three minutes later, McGrath’s across the top of the box giving him a chance to take a touch and then hit a shot on the turn, Laidlaw down to his right to shovel the ball behind. From the corner, there was another chance for Miovski, free at the back post, albeit from a tight angle, the striker putting his header back across goal but over the bar.
County produced their best chance after 37 minutes, Sims fizzing a cross through the six yard box, White just a fraction away from getting a crucial touch on it. Shortly afterwards, Baldwin was booked for flattening Baldwin on halfway as the Dons looked to get away on the break.
Murray caused consternation on 40 minutes, accelerating into the box and bundling his way past Slobodan Rube i , Stefan Gartenmann getting an important deflection on the shot to take it behind via the post. Leak joined Baldwin in the book seconds before the break for a stamp on Miovski.
HALF-TIME: ROSS COUNTY 0 ABERDEEN 2
An adventurous run from MacKenzie earned Aberdeen a corner right at the start of the second half and Barron’s delivery saw the Dons pen County in, Nicky Devlin’s dangerous looking shot blocked away. County tried to break from there and Polvara was booked for a foul on Murray as he looked to get forward.
Shinnie then produced what would have been his second goal of the season contender at Dingwall this term, picking up the ball in the box then slipping and sliding his way past half a dozen challenges in a twinkle-toed burst before producing a clinical finish, only to see the goal chalked off for offside against Clarkson. Even Messi might have put that one on his show reel!
County made their first change on 53 minutes, Sims replaced by Henderson.
McGrath and Miovski came close to the third goal on 56 minutes, both having shots at goal blocked by County defenders as Aberdeen surged forward to try to clinch the three points with a third goal. Barron was booked three minutes later for a foul on Loturi.
Shinnie was hunting a goal again on 61 minutes. After Miovski and Barron had combined well on a counter-attack, Shinnie came onto a half clearance at the edge of the box, jabbing a left footed shot goalward, Laidlaw handling confidently.
Purrington was next to collect a yellow card for a challenge on Polvara on 65 minutes, Murray then replaced by Samuel for the home side. Aberdeen were continuing to stay well on top, pushing County back, but desperate defending from the home side saw them keep the Dons at bay, Laidlaw finding another fine diving save from Barron’s 20 yarder following another corner.
Two final changes for County came on 79 minutes, the last throw of the dice as Turner and Harmon on for White and Sheaf. Within 60 seconds though, Miovski had sealed the win. A long ball out of defence saw Miovski off on the chase against two defenders – odds on the Dons’ number nine then. So it proved, as he accelerated away from Baldwin and fired a laser guided shot back across the face of goal, Laidlaw getting a despairing touch as it nestled in the far corner.
Five minutes later, Henderson was the fourth County man to go in the book, this time for jumping in on McGrath, Dhanda joining him moments later. On 88, Ester Sokler and Ryan Duncan replaced Miovski and Shinnie.
Sokler was almost immediately in the action, chasing onto a header forward from Duncan, Baldwin coming across him, chopping him down and collecting his second yellow card of the afternoon. VAR checked on the positioning of the infringement, overturning the penalty award, giving the Dons a free-kick right on the edge of the box and upgrading Baldwin’s card to a straight red. McGrath put the free-kick into the wall and, as County tried to break, Devlin was booked for a foul.
There was still time for Rube i to come forward and set up Duncan, Laidlaw making the latest in a string of fine saves to keep the score down.
2 minutes added at end 1st half.
6 minutes at end 2nd half.