Paul Sheerin's U20 side remain top of the table this evening after another fine victory, this time over Celtic at Brechin's Glebe Park. The result ends the visitor's unbeaten start to the season. Aberdeen lined up with Billington making his debut in goal, Michael Rose at right back, McKenna was joined in central defence by Kieran Gibbons and young Daniel Harvie made his first start at this level at left back. Nicky Low and Marcus Campanile were in midfield with Jeffrey Monakana on the left and Scott Wright on the right. Cammy Smith played just off Lawrence Shankland up front. Craig Storie and Craig Murray were both unavailable through injury. The match in Brechin was played in very windy conditions but thankfully the rain stayed away.
In the early stages both teams adjusted quickly to the conditions and there were a number of good crosses. In the first minute Campanile put over a dangerous cross which Smith got his head to but he could not get any power onto the ball. On four minutes McKenna did well at full strength to head clear and then a minute later a good run by Monakana saw him beat his marker and he put over a dangerous low cross but there were no takers. On 6 minutes a slip at the back let Celtic in and it needed a very good Michael Rose tackle to save the day. From the resulting corner, the first of the game, the ball caught the wind and almost landed outside Brechin! The Dons won their first corner on 13 minutes after a good deep Monakana cross was played to the back post area and caused problems for a Celtic defensive which was looking hesitant. Low swung over a good ball to the back post but Smith could not make contact. Then a minute later an opening for Shankland who saw his shot blocked but deflect to Smith who unfortunately lost his footing at the crucial moment. The ball was laid back to Low who fired in an effort which the keeper could only parry but the ball was hacked clear. Rose then put over a really good low ball but the keeper did well to smother. Wright then produced a trademark forward run which was only halted when he was fouled. The resulting free kick by Nicky Low was handled in the box but the ref waved play on. Smith then just put an effort wide before on the break Shankland had a chance after great hustling play by Low. His shot though was well saved by Hart with his legs.
On 21 minutes the Dons took the lead after an astonishing own goal. The Dons had been playing a high pressing game however there was little pressure on Kelleher as he collected a hopeful long ball by Harvie. The defender played it back to his keeper but caught his pass back far too heavily and never even looked to see where his keeper was. It looked like Hart had time to get back but despite his best attempts to recover the situation the ball trickled over the line after hitting the post. A fortunate break for the Dons but no more than they deserved at that stage.
Just before the half hour mark Celtic came back into the game a bit. Centre forward McMullan did well to make space for himself on the edge of the area before curling a shot just wide. The Celtic striker went even closer a minute later when his glancing header went inches past. On 31 minutes McMullan was involved again when he tried to use the wind and lob Billington from fully 40 yards, the keeper in the end did well to adjust his feet and get back.<.br>
The game was now more even and end to end. Smith made a good run into the box before O'Connell fired just over for Celtic. Nicky Low was bossing the middle of the park and he then set up Shankland with a great ball over the top. Hart rushed out to meet him which was the wrong decision as the ball held up in the wind and the keeper was caught in no mans-land. However Lawrence, after checking back, could not take advantage as he put his shot over the unguarded goal from about 25 yards out. On 38 minutes Daniel Harvie, who really came onto an excellent game, did well to beat the Celtic left back and put over a good ball but the defence just managed to clear, something the Dons defence failed to do a minute later when they got themselves in a mess but thankfully the visitors failed to capitalise. Celtic, with still a strong wind at their backs, pushed hard in the final few minutes of the half but the young Dons held out.
During the interval Cammy Smith was replaced by Cem Felek, with one eye to the game on Friday night. On 50 minutes Felek had a chance after great wing play by Monakana. Cem was quickly closed down in the box but showed great quick feet to get the shot away and Hart did well to cover the low shot which came through a ruck of players. On 51 minutes a let off for the Dons when Liam Henderson let fly and his shot clipped the top of the bar. A minute later though Celtic were level. Aberdeen failed to clear their lines and a great through ball picked out captain O'Connell who had made a run into the box down the right which was not tracked and when one on one with Billington the right back showed good composure to steady himself and then find the corner of the net with a good finish.
All of a sudden Celtic were playing with confidence after looking quite nervous in the first half. For the next 15 minutes or so they dominated and started to get their passing game going. Aberdeen had to work hard to keep them out. All that hard work was almost undone when on 63 minutes there was a massive let off for the Dons when the ball was given away to Twardzik in a very dangerous area. He pulled wide before putting the ball across the face of goal to Henderson who basically had an open goal but somehow his effort hit the bar, bounced down onto the line and Billington gratefully collected.
On 66 minutes Jamie Henry replaced Monakana. Jeffrey had a fine game, as did his young replacement who was outstanding in the middle of the park in the last half hour.
Then on 67 minutes Marcus Campanile, who also had a good game, did really well to make a powerful into the box. He was eventually stopped, when he was he had options either side of him but elected to shoot himself. The shot was too strong for Hart who could only parry it up into the air and then watch as the ball bounced off the bar and over.
Two minutes later though the Dons were ahead. Nicky Low, who once again ran the show, won the ball in the middle of the park after battling hard, something that he did all night. Nicky broke free and when he saw the space in front of him he only had one thing in mind. He steadied himself and unleashed a superb shot from about 30 yards which rocketed into the net. Nicky knew he had the wind behind him and was just waiting for his moment. A number of players tried similar things throughout the game, using the wind, but none had Nicky's ability.
After that Aberdeen took control a little bit. Scott Wright caused problems down the left all night and his run on 75 minutes set up Shankland who went close. At the other end Billington then made a good save with his foot from McMullan. On 78 minutes Marcus Campanile went close again but his shot just went over the bar after the Dons had put together another good move. Felek then went close as the Celtic defence again failed to deal with the Dons movement up front. Low then tried his luck from even further out and his effort caused Hart problems. The onslaught from Celtic in the final ten minutes never really materialised and the Dons did a great job in keeping the ball down the right end. Felek and Wright made some good runs whilst Henry, Campanile and Low covering every glade of grass to get forward to support Shankland who worked tirelessly all night. In the final five minutes he battled hard for every ball that came up his way and helped his team to a well-deserved three points.
Aberdeen Teamsheet Billington
.Unused Subs: Mutch, Jones, Ross, Robertson, Kelly.Bookings: Campanile
Hart, O'Connell, Waters, Kelleher, Findlay, McKenna, Twardzik, Lindsay, McMullan (Quinn 82), Henderson, Miller (George 73) Subs: Hazard, McCart, Higgins
Venue: Glebe Park, Brechin