A Scott Vernon hat-trick sent Aberdeen on the way to doubling their SPL goal tally for the season, and in truth the Dons could and should have scored more as they finally clicked in the final third. Vernon’s main challenger for the man of the match award was Pars goalkeeper Paul Gallacher, who pulled off a string of fantastic saves to keep the score down. In addition to his saves the home side hit the woodwork four times and Rory Fallon missed an open goal. Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.
At long last, Aberdeen looked hungry for goals and showed a more ruthless up front. Many pundits have claimed Vernon and Rory Fallon are too similar to play together, but they showed in this game that they can operate effectively as a partnership.
Fallon is a traditional target man, winning flicks and holding the ball up, whilst Vernon, freed of this responsiblity, is allowed to play in his preferred role facing the goal.
After his first goal he was also playing with real confidence, and looked a completely different player to the isolated and frustrated Vernon of a few weeks ago.
The whole team seemed buoyed by the goals, Rob Milsom and Fraser Fyvie in particular each having their best game of the season.
Milsom was everywhere, buzzing about making passes and penetrating runs, and he was denied the goal his performance deserved by another fine Gallacher save.
The foundation for the win was in the midfield – Kari Arnason and Isaac Osbourne ran Dunfermline ragged, winning every ball in the air and on the deck, giving Milsom and Fyvie more freedom to push forward and create. Dunfermline actually started the game with a five-man midfield, but were so beleaguered from the outset that holding midfielder Andy Dowie was substituted in the first half.
On the rare occasion that the ball made it past the midfield, Andy Considine and Youl Mawene dealt with the threat easily. Considine has really come into his own this season, perhaps thanks to having the composed, experienced head of Mawene next to him.
Mawene and Considine for the most part managed the defence on their own, allowing full-backs Ryan Jack and Ricky Foster to go forward almost constantly on the overlap. Their pace and drive added much-needed width to the side, in support of the central midfielders, Milsom and Fyvie, deployed on the wings.
Foster had an excellent game. Hopefully this performance – combined with the defeats against East Fife and Motherwell – will have convinced Craig Brown that he needs to use his captain at the left full-back position rather than further up the field. Foster is so quick he can be an attacking player even while covering the defence at full-back, and he plays by far his best football from there.
In fact, the same could go for the entire line-up. At last, players were deployed roughly in their proper positions, and it showed. The Dons looked far more comfortable than they have in any game this season, and it seems like after weeks of chopping and changing, Brown has found his best eleven.
One swallow does might make a summer, but this could be the turning point Aberdeen’s season has been waiting for. A free-scoring, morale-boosting win – the only downside is that it has come right before an international break, leaving the team with no chance to build momentum.
By contrast, Dunfermline enjoyed a good start to the season, but reality is starting to set in for the Fifers. Jim McIntyre has built a solid team of experienced pros, with very little reliance on youth or unknown quantities, which should be able compete in a fairly even SPL. As it stands, there are only two points between the sides in the bottom six, and only seven between fourth place and last.
As it is Aberdeen sit ninth, but will take a massive confidence boost from this win and are only one win away from the top six. At times this season they haven’t got the results their performances have merited, but against Dunfermline everything finally came together. The Red Army will be wondering if their side can’t play on a Friday night every week.