Jun 022017
 

 By Red Fin Hall.

Well that’s another season over, and what a season it was. Stretching back to 26th June last year when Aberdeen travelled to Brechin for a friendly, ahead of first competitive game in the Europa Cup at home to Fola Esch of Luxembourg, ending last Saturday with the epic and exciting Scottish Cup final against Celtic.

Nobody expected The Dons to get as close to being victorious in that final as they did.

This team, started by Craig Brown and moulded by Derek McInnes, has finally come to a crossroads, with Ash Taylor, Ryan Jack and Nial Mcginn, three first team regulars all looking for new clubs, and Peter Pawlett already signed for M.K.Dons. Rumours abound on social media about the future of Jonny Hayes and Derek McInnes, with Celtic and Sunderland seemingly interested in being their next employers.

It wouldn’t take much for these rumours to be squashed with an official statement from the club.

This has been our most successful season without winning anything since Willie Miller was manager, but this time the future looks rosier, with the prospective of further finals and perhaps progressing past the qualifying rounds of the Europa League a distinct possibility.

The main stream media though are having none of it, doing their usual speculating and writing us off because “The Rangers” will be busy in the transfer market and Hibs will be back in the SPFL.

Also, the fact that we have lost so many players and only, so far, having signed Greg Tansey, means we will be weaker. But The Rangers will be in a bigger transition period than the Dons, if stories are to believed, with more than half their team being kicked out, or should I say, released. Their manager has already stated that he wants to bring in players he knows; and if this is true, then their is a greater chance they will be Portuguese with no knowledge of the Scottish game.

Aberdeen have been pretty consistent all season long with only the occasional lapse of form, none more so than the League Cup final against Celtic where the players went into the match on a great run of nine wins out of ten, the only loss being to Celtic.

Bad luck played it’s part too, especially the away match to League survivors, Hamilton, in February of this year. Aberdeen had well over 20 corners, but couldn’t put the ball into the home team’s net and cancal out an 8th minute goal by Mikey Devlin. The Hamilton captain is a player that, apparently, McInnes is keen on.

Although Aberdeen had little chance of catching up with the champions, they have been in scintillating form. It was widely expected that the gap between the Dons and The Rangers, who finished in third place, would have been much closer.

However, it could have been wider had it not been for a few silly draws and especially those crazy 10 minute spells in our last three home games. Firstly, against The Rangers, we conceded 3 goals in that period despite being the dominant team throughout the match. The following home game, and the first after the split, saw us go to sleep for a few minutes, allowing St Johnstone to put two past us.

Thirteen days later visitors, Celtic were 3 goals up in the first 11 minutes. However, Jonny Hayes’ 12th minute goal was a vital turning point. The players seemed to finally realise how good they were, and made the Celtic defence work harder than they had domestically all season, pushing them all the way. Away romps and consecutive victories against the other two Glasgow clubs, saw the team go into the final in fine fettle and full of confidence.

Well, we all know what happened there, so no further analysis is needed other than, perhaps, the manager’s choice of substitutes.

In my opinion, the decisions to bring on Rooney (our top scorer, but a bit one dimensional at times) and replacing McGinn (a player that rarely plays his best in the big games, but still gives us width) with O’Connor, a midfielder, instead of Scott Wright (who scored a hat trick at Partick Thistle, and a natural keen and pacey replacement for the Northern Irishman) remain questionable.

It is pleasing that the supporters are still buzzing and confident and fully behind the team, and anxious for July to come around.

All in all, it has been a satisfactory season, and with the first game in the Europa League not taking place until July, this will be the first time since 2015 that the team have had a month without playing a game.

Unless a friendly is arranged in June that is.

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Jun 022017
 

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) adult, covered in dew, resting on grass at dawn, Elmley Marshes N.N.R., Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England, July

With thanks to Emma Brown.

This year’s Scottish Nature Photography Festival will bring together top wildlife and landscape photographers from across the UK and Europe to deliver an outstanding programme of talks at Battleby Centre in Perthshire on 9 and 10 September. German photographer Sandra Bartocha will kick things off on Sat 9 Sept, with the first of two presentations about her latest project, LYS

She will be followed by Robert Canis, marine photographer George Stoyle, Richard Peters, plus landscape photographer Alex Nail.

Norwegian photographers Orsolya and Erlend Haarberg complete the Saturday line-up and will return to open the event on Sunday 10 September with a spectacular presentation about their work in Iceland.

Alex Nail and Sandra Bartocha also return for a second day and will be joined by Andy Parkinson, Robin Moore and Will Burrard-Lucas, who will share some of his adventures in remote photography.

Renowned nature and conservation photographer Peter Cairns, who returns as compère, said:

“SNPF gets better as each year passes, taking both photographers and nature-lovers on a roller-coaster journey through the words and images of the top photographers at work today.”

Several of the speakers will be on hand to deliver a diverse range of lunchtime workshops, which will offer a more in-depth exploration of practical topics, plus Cairngorms-based wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre will give a lunchtime presentation on his stunning new book, The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest.

Taking place at Scottish Natural Heritage’s prestigious Battleby Centre just outside of Perth, the annual event also features exhibitors, including Epson and Perth-based camera retailer JRS Photo Hardware, photographer portfolios, book sales, the ever popular SNPF photo competition, plus the chance to catch up with friends old and new.

State-of-the-art projection and sound, plus easy access, free parking and excellent catering, makes Battleby the perfect venue to enjoy the astonishing images and inspiring stories from some of the best photographers in the business.

The Scottish Nature Photography Festival is coordinated by the Wild Media Foundation, a group of photographers and visual media specialists who have come together to bring nature’s stories closer to people’s lives.

It operates as a company limited by guarantee, set up as a Social Enterprise, which means that all profits are put aside to further the objectives of the company.

Its mission is:

“To bring nature’s stories to life through the development of innovative visual media products, which will engage, inform and inspire a wide audience.”

Links:

Tickets and more information available from www.snpf.co.uk

Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Facebook 
Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Twitter
Wild Media Foundation

Image Credits:

African wild dog, Zimbabwe © Will Burrard-Lucas.jpg
Arctic Terns, Iceland © Orsolya Haarberg.jpg
Dragonfly, England © Robert Canis.jpg

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May 142017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

Inevitable changes were made, with Peter Pawlett and Ryan Jack both injured, and Ryan Christie ineligible to play.
Anthony O’Connor made a rare start in midfield, whilst, surprisingly top scorer Adam Rooney was benched, and his place taken by Jayden Stockley.

A decent crowd  turned up for this Friday evening game.

This was the final game of the season at home, the final BT commentary by locally born Derek Rae, the last game that Niall McGinn and possibly Ash Taylor in front of the home fans, and my final match report for The Aberdeen Voice.

The haar was beginning to hang about as referee Stephen McLean got the match underway. Minutes in, Joe Lewis was called upon to make a decent save from Patrick Roberts after he got the better of Andy Considine. From the resultant corner taken by Leigh Griffiths, Dedryck Boyata headed the ball into the net for the visitor’s first goal. A perfect start for Celtic, not so for The Dons.

0-1

Seven minutes later, Callum Mcgregor fired a ball which Shay Logan blocked well, but Stuart Armstrong reacted quickly and flicked the ball into the net. The defence didn’t seem to be coping at all well with the pace of the champions.

0-2

Just as the fans were still shaking their heads over the state of things, Leigh Griffiths fired a shot from all of 25 yards out. Lewis made a bit of a hash of things, opting to try and palm it away instead of holding it, but he could only look on helplessly as the ball ended up crossing the line for goal number 3.

0-3

Things didn’t look good for the injury hit men in red, and one two fans, even this early, decided to call it a day. More fool them.

These ‘supporters’ would have barely left the confines of Pittodrie when, man of the match, Jonny Hayes, shot in the goal of the game, curling the ball in from outside the penalty area on the right, and straight into the top left hand corner. Much to the dismay of keeper Craig Gordon.

1-3

From such a poor and inauspicious start, in a game that means nothing other than pride, the match was pretty much turned on it’s head by this.

Moments later a fine and deep cross from Kenny McLean found the unmarked Stockley. His back post header should have gone into the net, but the tall striker’s attempt went inches wide of the target.

Aberdeen had their danders up, and kept the pressure on the team from Glasgow, with their defence, in my opinion, having to work the hardest they have had to domestically this season.

20 minutes in. first Hayes had a go, testing Gordon, then Graeme Shinnie had a shot, which he maybe should have hit better. Ten minutes later, McGinn forced the Scotland keeper to concede a corner. The Northern Irishman took the set piece himself, but Taylor could only head the ball into the side netting.

It wasn’t one way traffic though, and Mark Reynolds, then McLean had to look sharp to deny the visitors adding to their tally. Boyata still looked dangerous when up front.

Defender Jozo Simunovic looked a bit slack, and McLean should have at least hit the target. Instead his curling, left foot shot went wide. A free kick to the Dons just 2 minutes before half time was cleared forward by the visitors, and it ended up at the feet of Scott Sinclair. But the player of the year had the ball taken off of him by the persistent Hayes.

Half time: 1-3

As the match resumed, Aberdeen continued their positive and determined play as Shinnie chased after a nothing ball and won a corner. Considine then put in a low and fierce cross into the area, but it was too hard and McGinn just couldn’t make contact with it.

The next incident provided the only real moment of controversy of the evening. The referee spoilt a pretty flawless shift from himself when he denied the home team what looked, to all intent and purpose, to be a stonewall penalty. Shinnie was running through at pace to get to a blocked Logan shot when Gordon impeded him. If it had been the other way round, no doubt a foul at least would have been given. This is not the first time that the Celtic keeper has been lucky to escape punishment this season.

Four minutes later an effort by Anthony O’Connor in a crowded box came to nothing. The flag was up for offside in any case.

Celtic had a bit more of the play for a spell, but the Aberdeen defence had well recovered from their period of sleeping by now, and handled things quite admirably.

McLean should have scored a second goal and therefore really tested Celtic’s mettle when he received a pass from, surely next season’s captain, Shinnie. However, instead of aiming for the bottom corner, he chose, puzzlingly, to send it screaming over the bar and into the Richard Donald stand.

With only 20 minutes left the game turned a tad scrappy, and the only chance of note was a snap shot from McGinn which went high. Even pushing Taylor up front, and trying to break down the defence with high balls, pointless considering the height of the visitor’s defenders, failed to produce.

History was made with just 3 minutes of the allocated 4 of stoppage time left, Aberdeen schoolboy, Dean Campbell, made his first team debut, becoming the youngest player to feature for the Dons. Hope he doesn’t go the way of the previous record holder, Fraser Fyvie, and depart the club too soon.

The game ended, and the fans stayed to give the players a standing ovation.

With two games left before the Scottish Cup Final, both away from home, first to The Rangers midweek, and then back down to Glasgow to play Partick Thistle, two fighting perfomances like that will surely stand us in good stead for the trip back to Glasgow for the final.

Final score: 1-3

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Apr 302017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

On a very chilly afternoon, Derek McInnes decided he would experiment with the team, knowing that a victory would all but secure the second top spot in the league.
He decided to play both Ryan Christie and Niall McGinn and opted for a back three of Ash Taylor ,Andy Considine and Shay Logan.

This also gave the opportunity for Kenny McLean to be pushed a bit further forward.

Almost from the kick off the defence was called into action when a slack pass by the sometimes shaky Taylor fell to Danny Swanson. The net result was the first corner of the game for the visitors.

Seven minutes in, a cross from probable future captain Graeme Shinnie fell into the path of forward Adam Rooney who deftly turned the ball goalwards, and only a timely intervention from keeper Alan Mannus prevented the Dons’ striker from scoring his twentieth goal of the season.

Referee, Alan Muir, set the tone of the game soon after by booking both Logan and Jonny Hayes, both of which possibly just merited a talking to.

Soon after this, he totally ignored the clash between Chris Millar and Christie, when the former deliberately and cynically pushed the Aberdeen player into the visitor’s dugout. Why the fourth official didn’t bring this matter to the attention of the man in charge is beyond me. Before he limped off injured, Millar again avoided punishment when he again showed the style of play that St Johnstone participate in, when he body checked Jonny Hayes.

This tactic had the desired effect though, as the Dons failed to adapt and found it hard at times, despite trying, to get back to their crisp, passing play that has seen them see off various pretenders this season.

The first half continued in the same vein, with too much midfield head tennis being played. Much to the dismay of the fans. Just before half time, the first real chance of the game fell to Aberdeen, when a pleasing early cross into the box by Hayes, found McLean running in behind the defenders. But the on form midfielder should have done so much better with his diving, unchallenged header, and the half ended goalless.

Half time: 0-0

Just into the second half, the home side should have took the lead when that man McLean again found himself with the chance to score. It came when a long free kick was received by Logan who passed the ball to the aforementioned midfielder. But, as was the character of his efforts today, it went over the bar for a goal kick to the team from Perth.

Next to break forward was the soon to be departing Ryan Jack, who played a fine ball to Rooney, who fired in a dangerous cross into the area, only to see Steven Anderson turn it past his own post for a corner.

The game was desperately in need of a change of direction

From the resulting corner kick by McLean, Mannus had to be sharp to deny Christie, and then the ball ended up at the feet of Taylor – another player that looks to be departing in the summer.

His shot was unsurprisingly way off target.

Not long after that, the ever willing McLean saw another of his efforts, this time from further out, go high, wide, and not at all handsome.

The visitors then had their first chances of the game when first of all their captain, Steven Anderson, headed inches wide from a free kick, and then the ever dangerous Swanson’s long range attempt went, thankfully, wide of the target.

With 60 minutes gone, a fine piece of play from Christie resulted in a good ball laid into the path of Jack. His shot was not the one to get the opener though.

The game was desperately in need of a change of direction, and when Jayden Stockley and future MK Dons player, Peter Pawlett, replaced Rooney and Christie the fans were hoping that they could do as they have done so often this season and grab the vital winning goals.

But this was not to be. Their fresh legs didn’t change the way of the pretty poor fare on display at all.

The opening goal came under pretty controversial circumstances with only ten minutes left to play. Joe Lewis parried a shot from Swanson. The ball fell to Jack who was only a couple of feet  away from the keeper on the left side of the goals in a crowded area. The captain should have just turned it out for a corner, instead he hesitated on the ball and touched it back to Lewis.

With the referee at close hand viewing the incident, he rightly awarded an indirect free kick, despite the player’s protestations, and later claiming he was nudged in the back causing his foot to move the ball, from where I sit, directly behind the goal, it saddens me to say, that this was one of the few decisions that wannabe-Willie-Collum referee Muir got correct.

Rarely does anybody score from an indirect free kick in such close quarters to the net, but the writing was on the wall when The Dons lined up as if they were defending a free kick from further out. Instead of crowding out the goal mouth as most teams do, the set up a small defensive wall, with Lewis crazily positioning himself just behind the wall, with one man on the back post.

Liam Craig noticed this calamitous set up, and squared the ball to Swanson, who tucked it away from a relatively tight angle into the gaping space at the back post.

0-1

Aberdeen had to then chase the game – a situation that would never have developed had they been more positive in their finishing, and three minutes later, the inevitable happened. Goal scorer Swanson passed the ball to young Craig Thomson, and he fired a perfect angled and executed shot past Lewis to increase their lead.

0-2

Another poor decision occurred over on the South Stand side when Stockley and a couple of St Johnstone players were involved in a nothing situation which very nearly got out of hand. They were all lying on the ground after a period of play, nothing really, but when they stood up goalscorer Craig got right into Stockley’s face in a very threatening manner. The tall Aberdeen forward held his hands up and backed away.

Craig didn’t give up trying to make something out of nothing, and when the Perth lad threw himself to the ground causing Stockley to fall over him as he walked away from the farcical episode, other players got involved. Instead of sending Craig off for simulation, referee Muir showed only a yellow card, then mysteriously issued the same to Stockley who had already calmly walked away from the melee.

The end couldn’t come quick enough for what was left of the poor 10,606 crowd, and when the final whistle went, we all bemoaned the fact that two home games in a row we have lost a game in a five or six minute second half spell to a lower placed team playing in blue.

It looks like our post  split season poor form continues. This time with only nine points separating us from the plucky newcomers, the last four matches are vitally important.

Final Score: 0-2

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Apr 072017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Sen. Account Executive, Tricker PR.

The Federation of Chefs Scotland has appointed its youngest ever President.

David Littlewood (34), chef proprietor of both The Tor Na Coille Hotel in Banchory and The Kildrummy Inn by Alford, was elected President at the organisation’s AGM in Glasgow.

Littlewood takes over from previous president Ian McDonald, Executive Chef, St Andrews Links Trust.

David’s culinary titles include Scottish Chef of the Year, Grampian Chef of the Year, Grampian Young Chef of the Year and the SHA Awards Medaille d’Or.

He has also held the accolade of Grampian Restaurant of the Year, was a member of the Scottish Culinary Team and is a Masterchef of Great Britain.

Under the ownership of David and his family, The Kildrummy Inn has been named Rising Star Scottish Restaurant of the Year in 2014 and was runner up in The Observer Food Monthly, UK Restaurant of the Year in 2014. David’s team took over The Tor Na Coille hotel in Banchory in March this year.

David says of his appointment,

“I was very lucky to be mentored by great chefs in my early career; they inspired me and challenged me and through this, they showed me the immense value in supporting the next generation of great Scottish chefs. I feel that it’s incumbent upon all of us who have learned from other professionals to continue this tradition.

The Federation of Chefs Scotland is an important organisation in driving up standards and our current members play an influential role in enthusing young people about Scottish food and to work in our industry.”

The Federation of Chefs Scotland (FCS) – run exclusively by Scottish chefs – exists to promote excellence in the industry across Scotland through supporting and developing young chefs through training. Alongside David, Jav Aziz, Executive Chef at Rangers, has been appointed Vice President. Robbie Penman and Vikki Munro have also joined the board.

The FCS encourages participation in culinary competitions, and fundraises to support young chefs to undertake national and international learning experiences. The Scottish Culinary Championships at ScotHot and the Scottish Chef of the Year are organised by the FCS, and the not-for-profit organisation also champions helping Scottish pupils to know more about their food through the Chefs@School project.

There are currently 100 Scottish chefs volunteering their time to work with 15,000 pupils.

Outgoing FCS President Ian MacDonald says of David’s appointment,

“David is the youngest president of the Federation of Chefs Scotland. He’s achieved his success with his passion and drive, not only for his own work but for the development of youngsters in our industry through his supportive mentoring.

“I believe that David’s focus on attracting young talent and developing and challenging them to achieve is the way forward for the Federation. I know that David will make the Federation stronger in all different areas of our work and I wish him well during his tenure.”

The 25-bedroom Tor Na Coille Hotel has been a landmark building on Royal Deeside since the reign of Queen Victoria. David and his team, which includes 2017 Scottish Culinary Championships Scottish Chef of the Year bronze winner Colin Lyall, have begun to develop the hotel restaurant as a must visit foodie destination. More about the Tor Na Coille can be found at www.tornacoille.com.

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Apr 052017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

A crowd of around 11,500 people, including 174 from Inverness, saw referee Andrew Dallas get this evening game underway, and an unchanged Aberdeen team were looking for their tenth home victory in a row.

Starting positively, Jonny Hayes burst down the left wing, saw Niall McGinn inside the opposition’s box and fired an inch perfect ball into him.

The number 10’s attempt was on target, but was destined to count for nothing as the Main Stand linesman waved for an offside.

The Dons were determined to continue where they left off on Friday, by playing at a great pace and fighting for every ball.

The next move saw man of the moment, Kenny McLean, fire a great ball into the feet of McGinn who was ready and willing in front of the goal. But the Inverness captain, Gary Warren had other ideas and stole the ball right off him a mere 3 yards in front of the net.

Minutes later McGinn was the provider from the same left side, but keeper, Owain Fon Williams managed to get his fingers to the ball, which fell, fortunately, just beyond Adam Rooney.

With 11 minutes gone, Aberdeen were keeping the pressure up, and some fine passing from Hayes to McLean and back to Hayes, then into McGinn, whose head flick was saved by the keeper.

Next, a Graeme Shinnie shot from just outside the box went wide.

The home side were awarded their first corner in the 12th minute of this so far, action past game.

McLean was on fire, running the midfield and appearing all over the field pitching in. Inverness were working hard to stop the Dons from running rampant, and were making a better fist of it than Dundee did.

Working his way down the left side, McLean was brought down by Henri Anier, resulting in the first free kick of the match just inside the visitor’s half.

Shinnie picked the ball up around half way and started a great run towards the Merkland Stand, culminating in a super shot from about 30 yards out, but the only reward from this great play was a corner. Hayes took the corner finding Friday’s hat-trick hero, Andrew Considine, who fired the ball in for Ash Taylor who made certain by striking the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring on the 22nd minute.

1-0

A short time later, the defender attempted one of his accurate long passes towards Shinnie who was lurking at the far edge of the goal area, but the ball ended up going out for a Caley goal kick.

In the 33rd minute, Hayes tried a running chip shot, gaining yet another corner from which Taylor, who was having a good game, headed just wide. With around ten minutes left of the first half to play, the referee issued the first booking of this competitive match when Billy McKay deliberately pulled back Considine.

Just before the end of the first 45 minutes, Hayes had another super breakaway before finding McGinn with the pass. McGinn in turn passed brilliantly to McLean who was running in to collect it. The net result, however, was a corner, which turned out to be the last action of the first 45.

Half time: 1-0

With neither side opting to make any half time changes, Aberdeen had been awarded a throw in and a corner within the first 2 minutes of the restart. From the corner Considine got his head to the ball, but could only head the ball down and out to give the visitors possession.

Shay Logan was the next player to execute a great move, by making good run before putting a fine ball in to captain Ryan Jack who then passed to McLean. McLean was desperate to score, but could only put the ball wide.

Jack then showed some wonderful strength in midfield by holding onto the ball despite numerous tough challenges and severe physical pressure from several players. Aberdeen were then awarded a free kick around 30 yards out, but McLean made a hash of it.

Manager, Richie Foran must have had some harsh words to say to his team at half time, because Inverness were playing much better in this second half. Nevertheless, they barely troubled the home defence, despite having some talented players in their side such as Greg Tansey, who will be joining Aberdeen in the summer, and the other paying his first visit as a player to his old club, Kevin McNaughton. 

The pitch, not in great shape at the best of times, was cutting up more and more, making silky play all but impossible. Still, Aberdeen kept trying to add to their tally, but to no avail. 

With ten minutes left of the action, Derek McInnes decided to take off McGinn and Rooney and replace them with Ryan Christie and ex Inverness loan player, Miles Storey. It was the latter who messed up the perfect opportunity to put the game to bed. Hayes fired in the perfect ball to him as he was standing, virtually unattended on the goal line, only to get the ball trapped beneath his feet. Frustrating and puzzling to say the least.

Even with three minutes of stoppage time added, The Dons couldn’t score a second, and when the final whistle was blown Aberdeen were content to secure yet another clean sheet and, more importantly, 12 points ahead of The Rangers in second place

Final Score: 1-0

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Mar 192017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

The match against ‘they who were once contenders’ before Robbie Neilson jumped ship to go to MK. Dons and the young statistician took over, was a game where nothing short of a Dons win would suffice; not just to make it nine home wins in a row, but to rectify a poor recent record of results versus Hearts.

Aberdeen reverted back to the usual suspects in the team fielded, with Mark Reynolds still out injured, Anthony O’Connor retaining his place, and Jayden Stockley back on the bench.

It was a fine but sunny-ish day, with the rain, thankfully, staying off. Hearts won the toss, and decided to kick off towards the Merkland Stand. The match referee was Steven McLean.

The Dons started off in a positive manner, winning two corner kicks in the first minute. Hearts got theirs five minutes in when O’Connor and Esmael Goncalves were involved in the first real tackle of the game.

8 minutes in the home team were awarded their 2nd free kick, a pattern which was set for the whole of the game.

Kenny McLean continued on from the last game, being involved in almost everything that happened on every part of the field. However, he was an unwilling participant in the first booking of the game, when he was chopped down by Alexander Tziolis.

Aberdeen were well at the top of their game, and even this early in the proceedings there was some pretty fine football being played. But, Hearts being Hearts, they interspersed trying to make a game of it with their trademark fouling.

Aberdeen were nearly hit with a sucker punch as the visitors progressed upfield, but some calm defending meant that the shot from Arnaud Djoum never troubled Joe Lewis, and the ball sailed over the bar for a goal kick.
 
Leonard Sowah was the next player to concede a free kick for a foul on Ryan Jack.

With 23 minutes elapsed we saw the best move of the game when Andrew Considine and Niall McGinn showed some skill in passing and possession, with the latter firing a perfect cross from the left side into the 18 yard area to find Shay Logan running across the front of goal and heading the ball into the back of the net.

1-0

McGinn was the executor of the next chance a mere 4 minutes later when he fired a good ball in for Adam Rooney. Rooney couldn’t quite make contact with it and it fell perfectly for Graeme Shinnie. Alas, the best we could get was a corner, which, when taken was too long for anybody.

Next, left back Considine passed forward an almost perfect ball for Hayes, but he wasn’t expecting it and failed to control it.

Hearts found themselves having the ball for a good bit of play until their work was broken up by McLean, who was then fouled for his trouble.

within the first 2 minutes Rooney had the ball in the net

Playing to his usual high standard, Shinnie collected the ball on the edge of the opposition box, turned swiftly and chipped the ball in.

It went over the bar though.

The Dons were a joy to watch, and the goal had obviously knocked the stuffing out of the men from Edinburgh, with Goncalves seemingly giving up on chasing loose balls down to easily.

Meanwhile, McGinn showed again why there may be top clubs after him in the summer, when he aimed for Rooney with a superb ball in from the sideline. The Irish striker was just unable to reach it. Still looking dangerous though.

Sam Nicholson, despite not having a game of the standard you might expect from him, tried running at the Dons defence looking for an equaliser before half time, but his finish was poor and the ball was inches away from clearing the roof of The Merkland Stand.

Just on half time Hearts had another possible goal failing by poor shooting, this time by Goncalves. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the player was adjudged to be offside, although he didn’t know it at the time.

Half time 1-0.
 
The second half kicked off with The Dons attacking, and within the first 2 minutes Rooney had the ball in the net, but the whistle had been blown for offside.
 
57 minutes had passed when Logan took a throw in to Hayes, who passed to McLean who is not shot shy, but couldn’t find the second goal.

Don Cowie, the Hearts captain was booked for a foul on McLean. The free kick went no further than the wall though.

There next followed a catalogue of errors by Hearts starting off when McLean stole the ball off a Hearts player in midfield, but then after getting it back, the Dons forced a slack pass back from Anastasios Avlonitis. Before Hearts’ keeper Jack Hamilton could get to the ball, Jonny Hayes nipped in and collected it.

The keeper made a timing error when he dived at the feet of the onrushing Hayes, missing both the ball and the attacker, making it easy for him to kick the ball into an empty net.

2-0.

The second half continued in such a fashion, with the Dons pushing high upfield and Hearts fouling, mainly McLean, with Jamie Walker getting a yellow card for doing so just after 80 minutes had passed.

Just before that, however, Rooney was substituted and Jayden Stockley came on. The tall forward is more often than not, proven to have a crucial effect on games when he comes off the bench. Today was no different, but time it wasn’t so good. The Hearts players couldn’t quite handle him, and as he tried to break upfield with minutes left to play Krystian Novak, in an attempt to stop him, was pulling him back.

None of the officials saw this, but they did see Stockley foolishly react by swiping back at the player with his hand, making contact with Novak’s face. The Hearts player, unsurprisingly, went down over dramatically. The Dons player was correctly shown a straight red card for his part in the incident.

Dying the time that Novak was being treated for the gentle tap on the face he received, both Shinnie and Hearts substitute, Malaury Martin, were yellow carded for pushing and shoving like petulant schoolboys.

Ryan Christie and Frank Ross both got very minimal run-outs in the last few minutes. The fourth official indicated that three minutes stoppage time would be played, which passed without further incident. The full time whistle went, and Man Of The Match, Kenny McLean must continue to ponder what he has to do to get back into the Scotland squad.

Full time 2-0

Next game is away to Dundee on the last day of the month, before Inverness Caledonian Thistle pay a visit on 4th April.

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Mar 122017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

A quick return visit from the manager-less Steelmen, but a harder match was to be expected than the 7-2 drubbing we handed out to them on the previous occasion.
Being AFC Community Trust day, a large contingent of children and first timers were in attendance.

The club had said that the Merkland Stand had sold out, but there were enough empty seats to nullify this claim.

With Captain Ryan Jack back from injury, but Andrew Considine joining Mark Reynolds on the injury list, changes were inevitable. Graeme Shinnie slotted into the left back position, whilst Jayden Stockley continued in his up front position with Andrew Rooney.

After a rainy night and morning, it dried up, but it didn’t do anything to help the already sodden pitch.

Referee Euan Anderson blowed whistle as The Don’s kicked off towards the King Street end.

The first free kick of the game was awarded to the home team when Chris Cadden deliberately pulled down Jonny Hayes. Niall McGinn’s free kick was palmed away by keeper Craig Samson.

A good ball from Ash Taylor was received by Adam Rooney who was in plenty of space and had seemingly plenty of time, but the striker unnecessarily rushed the shot and the ball went out for a goal kick.

8 minutes into the match, McGinn collected a pass really well on the right side of the pitch. He then executed a perfect cross for Rooney, but his header was just off target. A minute later Motherwell were awarded the first corner of the game.

The centre pairing of Taylor and Anthony O’Connor were caught napping, but fortunately Motherwell were incapable of cashing in on the error.  

The first booking of the game saw ‘Well defender, Ben Heneghan shown a yellow card for coming back onto the field without permission – after being on the sidelines getting treatment for a head injury.

The pattern for the afternoon was set for Rooney when he managed to steal the ball from Zak Jules and Carl McHugh, then had a shocking ‘un-strikerlike’ attempt at goal.

This bad luck / carelessness continued in the 18th minute, when, not for the first time this season, he attempted to find the back of the net with an overhead kick. This time he didn’t even manage to make contact with the ball.

With Shinnie taking over the left back slot, we were missing somebody at this juncture who could put their foot on the ball in midfield and hold play up for a moment or two to try and alter this tousy game.

Jules, in the spirit of their tactics, conceded a free kick when he clattered Stockley to the ground

Midway through the half, good interplay between Shay Logan, McGinn and Stockley saw Rooney taking the final touch. This time his sharp shot was much more positive, but still couldn’t find the net, the ball going marginal over the bar.

Ryan Bowman became the second player to be booked for deliberately taking down Shinnie after the defender had ran back 30 yards to tackle the ball away from ‘Well number 12, Cadden, who had broken away.

The defence was called into action next when O’Connor took the ball off of  Scott McDonald as he was lining up to take shot. The ball was then worked forward to McGinn whose shot was on target, but well saved by Samson.

Motherwell seemed to have came with a plan to stop the Dons building a rhythm to the game, and it was working successfully. Jules, in the spirit of their tactics, conceded a free kick when he clattered Stockley to the ground 30 yards out.

The half drew to a close with Hayes, McGinn and Stockley nipping away and trying to break down the resilient Steelmen to no avail.

Half time 0-0.

With both teams unchanged from the first half, it was Motherwell who, within 4 minutes of the second, had the first attempt at breaking the deadlock when Scott McDonald, from just outside the goal area, chipped the ball over the defence. However, Joe Lewis was perfectly placed to catch the ball in his arms.

Good persistent play from Stockley saw the tall Englishman winning a corner. The end play from the set piece saw the ball enciphered at the feet of Taylor in a well forward position. The tall defender struck the ball from the left side of the goal mouth at a diagonal angle, going narrowly beyond the far right post near the crossbar.

Kenny McLean was having a really strong game, being involved in most moves. One minute bang in front of the goal winning a corner, next back helping with the defence.

21 minutes into the second half, the visitors made the first change of the game with Ryan Bowman being replace by Jacob Blyth, who was introduced I presume to add some spirit to the Motherwell play.

McLean was in action again in the 62nd minute when he slotted a great ball towards the far post which, with Shinnie just unable to make contact, went over for a goal kick. McLean had another unsuccessful attempt at goal just a minute later .

The final booking of the game, the sixth for the visitors, went to Cadden

Stephen Pearson became the next Motherwell player to fall foul of the ref when he was booked for holding back the pacy Jonny Hayes the Dons winger sprinted goal-ward.

Motherwell were content to waste time and settle for the draw.

Their fourth booking went to Hammel, Captain for the day, who chopped down McGinn.

In the 73rd minute Rooney was replaced by Ryan Christie. Soon after, Hammel was substituted as Elliot Frear came on for Motherwell.

Meanwhile, in between these two substitutions, yet another Motherwell booking was given. This time it was David Ferguson who was the recipient, long overdue, for time wasting.

Stockley received a yellow card with 7 minutes to go. At the same time O’Connor was replaced by Miles Storey as Derek McInnes was determined to get a win. The Dons never-say-die attitude was needed now as time was ticking away.

The game was held up for a while as Stockley and Ferguson received treatment, the 2 players having cracked their heads together in a challenge.

The final booking of the game, the sixth for the visitors, went to Cadden who refused to release the ball for The Dons to take a throw.

It was looking like an undeserved draw was on the cards when fourth official Scott Millar indicated there were 5 minutes of time to be added on.  

In the first of these minutes, Jonny Hayes shot the ball across the area from the left, to the right. McGinn ran into the ball and swept it into to the back of the net, shattering the hardworking but poorly skilled visitors, and sending the home fans into raptures as AFC move 9 points clear in second place.

1-0

The match sponsors bemused the crowd by awarding McGinn the man of the match, whilst ignoring the best player on the pitch, McLean.

Final score 1-0.

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Mar 062017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

After the most one sided, losing game Aberdeen have had for ages, if not ever, against Hamilton last week, The Dons return to Pittodrie to face Partick Thistle in this cup game.
The visitors are on a good winning run at the moment, whilst Aberdeen have lost only 2 of their last 12 games.

It was inevitable Derek McInnes had to change the starting line up for this tough match as the home side have injury problems, with Mark Reynolds out for a good few weeks, as is Ryan Jack.

But Jonny Hayes makes a return, as does Jayden Stockley. Both started the game, as did Peter Pawlett.

It’s been 96 years since the Glasgow club won the cup, whereas it has been 27 years since it came north to Pittodrie. Too long for a team of Aberdeen’s stature. Hopefully this game, their 400th Scottish Cup game will seem them take a step closer to rectifying this statistic. And having lost only one of their home games in all competitions this season, and with all the home teams getting through, they were the favourites to do so.

The pitch was not in great condition as the referee, Craig Thomson got the game under way.

Partick had most of the possession in the first couple of minutes, with Andrew Considine having to be sharp to turn the ball out for the first corner of the game.

From the forthcoming goal kick, the ball went upfield to Stockley, who has scored against the visitors in the last two games. This time, however, he was sufficiently blocked from getting a third. Within the next minute he was back in defence clearing a corner.

Moments later the Dons were on the attack with a good run from Graeme Shinnie. He found Adam Rooney who tried to curl the ball into the top corner, only for it to be saved by Tomas Cerny, with Pawlett running in. 

Abdul Osman was the first player to be penalised after a deliberate body check on Hayes. 

Thistle were awarded a free kick in the 12th minute, When Kris Doolan went down under pressure from Ash Taylor just shy of the home corner flag. Although it was clear to all that the defender never touched him.

McGinn had as shot for goal in minute 14, but it went more than marginally over. Aberdeen were beginning to get more into the game now, but still needed a bit of calmness to break the deadlock.

With just about a quarter of the game gone, a thunderous shot from Niall McGinn from the edge of the box was turned round for a corner by the keeper.

A wild McGinn effort ended up stuck on the roof of The Merkland Stand

A clever move from McGinn after receiving a pass from Shay Logan saw him put a low ball into the box, with Stockley and Adam Rooney lurking, but it was well cut out by Cerny.

The game was stopped in the 32nd minute when Pawlett and Liam Lindsay went down after a clash of heads. Fortunately both were able to continue.

McGinn was causing problems for the Thistle defence, winning a corner after some good link up play with Stockley. From the resultant kick, Rooney headed just over. A minute later the same player headed just over again after The Dons were awarded a free kick for a deliberate hand ball.

Chris Erskine had his name taken by the ref for high feet when he caught Logan on the head during another physical challenge.

A wild McGinn effort ended up stuck on the roof of The Merkland Stand just a few minutes before half time. Some poor touches from Aberdeen players, on a pretty atrocious surface, which has a greater percentage of mud over grass, doesn’t help the game flow.

Just on 43 minutes, a move from Stockley to McGinn, then a neat ball to Shinnie, Captain in the absence of Reynolds, on the edge of the D, saw him receive the ball with one foot, turn and fire the ball low into the net with the other.

1-0.

With no further scoring in the one minute the referee had added on for stoppages, the half time score remained 1-0.

No changes were made by either team as the second half commenced.

The half was barely a minute old when Pawlett was body checked and a free kick was awarded to the Dons. From the kick, Considine got on the end of the ball, stretching out his foot, but the keeper, who was having a good game, made another brilliant save.

it was the Partick Player who came off worse and had to receive treatment

A fantastic touch by Stockley in the Partick box, to an in-running Pawlett, saw the Aberdeen number 16 shoot into the side netting. The tall English striker went down with an injured shoulder on minute 53, but after some treatment he was able to rejoin the play.

The Home team were fair stepping up to the mark now, to try and put this game to bed, and some excellent work by Pawlett saw Rooney having another effort on goal.

A great longish pass from Logan to Rooney on the right wing, saw the forward try to dribble the ball along the bye-line. A corner was his only reward, and Ash Taylor could only head the ball over the bar from the corner kick.

A great run from the unusually quiet Hayes on he left side, saw his ball eventually reach the ever keen Stockley. He gathered and turned quickly causing Cerny to get down and prevent the relatively soft shot from ending up in the back of the net.

With 59 minutes having passed the visitors made the first substitution when Erskine left the field of play and Ade Azeez joining in.

Pawlett was taken out of the game by Daniel Devine for a free kick to Aberdeen on the 67th minute, but and a yellow card. At the same time Osman left the field after falling awkwardly too. Both players were able to continue though.

Niall Kewon for the visitors was the next to get treatment after bashing into the back of Stockley’s head, and suffering a nose bleed. Partick, playing the hard physical and game, were suffering more than the victims of their tough challenges.

Aberdeen made their first change in the 74th minute when the lively Pawlett was replaced by Anthony O’Connor, perhaps with a view to just seeing the match out and ensuring that their name is in the hat for the semi final draw.

With 13 minutes left, McGinn, despite getting pulled by number 15, managed to get a decent cross over, which Cerny got a hand too.

Thistle made another change, when Kevin Nisbet replaced Doolan.

Loan signing, Ryan Christie replaced McGinn

Aberdeen followed suit, by taking off Rooney, who wasn’t at his best, and the more pacier Miles Storey took over in the second forward role.

He immediately got on the end of a pass from Hayes and earned a throw in to the Dons, which Logan took, just in line with the away 18 yard line.

Osman was finally given a yellow card after cynically chopping down Hayes. From the free kick, a magnificent one, O’Connor headed the ball onto the crossbar. So close to number 2.

With minutes to go, Aberdeen, who got the toughest of the 4 quarter final games, are content to just keep the visitors at arm’s length.

Loan signing, Ryan Christie replaced McGinn with just 2 minutes left to play. This happened during the stoppage for Partick to take a corner that Logan had needlessly conceded. Joe Lewis made crucial save to snatch the ball out of the air to set up another Abereen attack.

Five additional minutes to the game were signified by the fourth official. With only one of them gone, Thistle were awarded a free kick just outside the Aberdeen box, on the left side.

Osman headed just over the bar, much to Aberdeen’s relief. But the away fans, plenty of them, thanks to their club providing free buses for them, must be disappointed that it took so long to have a proper effort on the goal.

Devine was then shown the red card when he bundled Stockley into the hoardings. 

Referee Thomson blew for full time just as Hayes was chasing the ball that was hoofed upfield towards the empty Thistle net, because all the away players, Cerny included, were up in the Dons box trying to get the equaliser.

It certainly wasn’t a pretty game, but AFC march onto the last four of this ancient cup competition, and deservedly so.

Final score 1-0.

Shinnie was awarded Man of the match. His elder brother got the same yesterday for Hibs in their win over Ayr United.

Celtic, after beating St Mirren earlier on today, and The Rangers, who romped to victory over a hapless Hamilton yesterday, made up the other three teams in the draw
which ended up with Celtic v The Rangers and Hibs v Aberdeen. Ties to,be played 22nd April.

Next home game v Motherwell, next Saturday.  11-03-17.

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Mar 022017
 

Aiblins – New Scottish Political Poetry. Reviewed by Duncan Harley

Conceived on the back of the September 2015 post-referendum conference Poetic Politics: Culture and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, One Year On at the National Library of Scotland, Aiblins is an anthology of recent work by a diverse range of poets all with connections to Scotland.

Co-edited by Katie Ailes and Sarah Paterson the publication presents as a snapshot of the myriad issues concerning Scotland’s poets today.

The poems are written in many styles and address topics as diverse as Indyref and the decaying remnants of Empire.

With a foreword by Professor David Kinloch and an after-word by New Generational poet Robert Crawford, the collection is firmly book-ended. While David reflects on the contribution Scottish poets are making to the “tumultuous, rapidly evolving nature of contemporary Scottish politics” Robert presents the bard’s dilemma: No poet should be obliged to engage with politics. All poets should be free to do so.

Hugh McMillan’s September 2014 neatly summarises the pro-pre-referendum atmosphere:

‘I am the only person here,
this heady day,
And I am balancing the sun
on one finger,
holding everything at bay
for a dream.

And, in what may be post-referendum mode, The Chair by Glasgow playwright Chris Boyland, reflects on:

‘this little girl who’d sat on the chair and
gone around in it, wherever it went.
But no-one could recall her face or,
when we thought about it, who she was
or even if she’d really been there at all.

My personal favourite is by Orcadian Harry Giles: All the verbs from Glasgow City Council’s New Proposed Management Regulating Public Parks … An Elegy. Even that Glasgow Dreamer, Ivor Cutler, couldn’t have made it up.

Intended to reflect on and record tumultuous events which have taken place alongside our borders in recent years, Aiblins is, says contributor Stewart Sanderson,

“Like Scotland, slightly synthetic and in a state of indecision.”

The reader alone will decide whether the collection is truly worthy of the publisher’s claim that it captures the importance of the arts in shaping modern politics.
Aiblins reflects a wide diversity of views expressed in English, Scots and Gaelic but not in Doric.

Indeed, apart from Mandy Macdonald’s Overheard on a bus in Aberdeen, it’s almost as if the North east portion of Scotland has silently drifted off into the North Sea.

Aiblins (130pp) is published by Luath Press at £8.99   ISBN: 9781910745847  

Words © Duncan Harley , Cover image © Luath Press. First published in the February 2017 edition of Leopard Magazine.

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