Aberdeen 1 Dundee 0 – Pittodrie Stadium 23/08/11
Most teams would greet a tie against lower-league opposition in the cup as a good thing, but a series of embarrassing upsets in recent years have left Aberdeen fans rather wary when facing smaller sides. As a result they will gleefully accept any kind of win in these circumstances, even by the narrowest of margins – and that is precisely what their team produced here. Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.
They are creating a lot more chances than during the early-season goal drought, but finishing remains poor.
Josh Magennis, Darren Mackie and Ryan Jack all missed first-half chances, while Kari Arnason saw his long-range drive well saved.
The Dons seemed at their best when going at the Dundee defence at pace, something the front pairing of Mackie and Magennis have in abundance, and this is how they carved out the best chances of the game.
The solitary goal of the tie was well-taken by the much-maligned Darren Mackie, turning on Chris Clark’s knockdown from a Peter Pawlett cross before firing high into the net past veteran Dee’s keeper Rab Douglas.
Pawlett looked lively for much of the first half, speeding past his marker with ease time and time again and even drawing a save from Douglas, but the young winger appeared subdued after being floored by a flying elbow from Gary Irvine.
That attack went completely unpunished by referee John McKendrick, who did little to endear himself to the home support with a succession of bizarre decisions. There seemed to be a fundamental lack of consistency from the whistler, who as chair of the referees’ union was instrumental in winning officials a pay rise over the summer.
As with the weekend win over Inverness, the Dons faded somewhat in the second half, after a fashion appearing content to hold out and defend their narrow lead. Craig Brown’s hand was forced somewhat tactically when he had to replace first Arnason and then Clark due to injury – Clark’s in particular looking serious, a real worry for a player who was making his first start after an injury lay-off.
Aberdeen’s play after the forced changes lacked any of the fluency shown in flashes in the first half.
In the middle of the park in particular they lacked composure, rarely dwelling on the ball, always looking to fire forward long passes for Mackie and Magennis to chase. Fraser Fyvie did his best to fill in the Arnason/Milsom role of midfield creator, but still doesn’t look nearly as sharp as he did prior to his serious injury last season – hopefully this will come with time and games.
Ricky Foster’s pace again caused problems for the opposition, and he actually had a second-half goal disallowed for offside after smashing home a Pawlett drive which came off the post. His running and that of Pawlett and Jack, supporting the pace of Mackie and Magennis, gave the Dons good width at times, but the supply from the centre was inconsistent despite the typically strong tackling and defensive play of Osbourne.
Dundee by contrast never looked entirely likely to put the ball in the net.
Although the Division One side had plenty of the ball in the second half in particular and applied substantial pressure on the Dons rearguard, debutant goalkeeper Jason Brown only had two saves of note to make. Graham Bayne gave Andy Considine a torrid time fighting for headers, but the Dee’s never seriously troubled Brown’s clean sheet, with most of their opportunities restricted to long-range efforts.
The Pittodrie faithful – the paltry 5,722 of them – were given the first opportunity to see new Dons signing Mohamed Chalali, after the Algerian U23 captain replaced Clark on the hour mark. He showed good pace and willingness to run directly at defenders, but fluffed the two chances he was presented with badly. To be fair, he had flown overnight from Greece to take part in the match, so only the most hardened cynics in the support will be leaping to judge him already.
A win is a win, at the end of the day, and Aberdeen can advance into the next round of the cup with some confidence that the lower-league hoodoo has been put to bed at last. It may be at a steep price, depending on the severity of the injuries to Clark and Arnason, but it seems hopeful now that the Dons can build on the weekend win against Inverness and get their season underway at last.