The Dons threatened constantly and the score could have been more convincing, but Scott Vernon was twice denied by the offside flag, ruling out his two headed efforts in the second half. The Saints only clicked into gear in the last 10 minutes, a well taken goal from summer signing Nigel Hasselbaink ensuring there was drama at the close, but Steven Anderson’s last minute header was wide of the mark, and as Steve Lomas himself acknowledged in the post match press conference, it would have been an injustice if his side had stolen a point.
St Johnstone started brightly with Hasselbaink threatening the away defence, his direct approach to wing play getting the better of Isaac Osbourne, he moved the ball to Chris Millar but his effort from range was comfortably saved by Jamie Langfield.
Aberdeen found their way into the game soon after though, and while St Johnstone approached the game in a very direct fashion, often opting for long balls towards Sean Higgins – Aberdeen built from the back, with the midfield triumvirate of Ryan Jack, Stephen Hughes and Gavin Rae all comfortable on the ball. When the latter fed the electric Ryan Fraser, he beat Dave Mackay with ease, and although Scott Vernon couldn’t connect with the cross, Isaac Osbourne was on hand to deliver a wonderfully composed finish across the face of Alan Mannus’ goal, after 16 minutes.
St Johnstone had the better of the remainder of the first half, although the quality of the football was dire, and neither side troubled the opposition goalkeeper. The highlight of the first half, other than Osbourne’s goal, was Higgins putting Liam Craig into space on the left flank, only for the St Johnstone playmaker to get confused and lose the ball in a sea of blue and white balloons – a timely dose of schadenfreude that brought back memories of Darren Bent’s winner against Liverpool for Sunderland back in 2009.
Worryingly for St Johnstone, Murray Davidson took a knock to his right knee, and was replaced by Gary Miller at half time, and things quickly went from bad to worse for the home side. Sean Higgins should have scored after Liam Craig’s low-driven free kick landed fortuitously at his feet, but his tame effort was saved by Langfield. Aberdeen cleared the ball, and when a routine defensive clearance instead confused Mannus and Fraser Wright, Jonny Hayes stole in to roll the ball into an empty net, much to the delight of the away fans.
The floodgates could have opened, but St Johnstone rode their luck, Hayes struck the post after a delightful backheel from Hughes, and then from the follow up, Mannus made a brilliant save to prevent Gavin Rae making it 3. Then Scott Vernon, who had an impressive match playing the lone striker role, had not one but two headed efforts chalked off for offside, and in addition send a free header over the bar from 8 yards, after a wonderful cross from the magnificent Fraser.
2 goals is never a secure cushion, and although St Johnstone had been outclassed, Nigel Hasselbaink managed to volley home after Sean Higgins knocked down a Dave MacKay cross.
The home team could have snatched an unlikely point, but Anderson’s header went the wrong side of the post, and Aberdeen picked up a win that they will hope to built on over the course of the season; on this evidence they’re a good bet to challenge for a place in Europe next year – as for the home side, they’ll need to improve significantly to get close to last years 6th place finish.