Aberdeen didn't qualify for Europe this afternoon but a 90th minute goal from Barry Nicholson maintained the four-point advantage with two games remaining. There was a price to pay for the midfielder who had been booked minutes earlier when he renewed his acquaintance with Hearts Laryes Kingston. He removed his shirt once he scored and was shown a second yellow card with four minutes of injury time remaining. Aberdeen had played well throughout the match but had fallen behind in the 15th minute following a defensive blunder. The Dons didn't let the loss of the goal affect them and after hitting the woodwork and squandering a few chances Nicholson popped up to grab the goal. The downside is that Nicholson will now miss the Celtic game and a controversial yellow for Chris Clark means he will miss the last game of the season.
The game kicked off in a cauldron of noise and Aberdeen threatened first when Hart swung in a cross that was pushed away by Gordon for the first corner of the match. A second corner followed quickly and Lee Miller had a chance at the back post but his shot was blocked by Kingston. By now the rain was falling heavily and the red army roundly booed Kingston every time he touched the ball. Aberdeen continued to threaten as Hearts were forced into more defending than they would have expected at this stage. Hearts won their first corner of the match in the sixth minute and after the ball was cleared it came back in and there were loud appeals for a penalty as Hearts claimed handball.
The referee was not interested and a second corner was awarded and defended comfortably. In the 9th minute Bednar was all over Considine like a rash. The youngster was awarded the free kick and then controversially booked for the incident as Bednar escaped punishment. The game was raging from end to end as Aberdeen won another corner in the 12th minute but the cross was delivered too deep and the chance was lost. A Nicholson free kick two minutes later was wasted and Hearts were able to break quickly before Diamond mopped up at the back. After a very strong start the Diamond gifted possession to Hearts in the 15th minute and fell behind.
This allowed Velicka to step into the penalty area and fire the ball into the net. Langfield could maybe have done better with the shot but the poor defending hardly helped his cause. Aberdeen raced forward from the restart and Lee Miller made a rather lame appeal for a spot kick when he went down in the Hearts penalty area. Hearts had taken confidence from the goal and the corner count was beginning to rise as Aberdeen were forced back. Craig Gordon foiled a good attacking move in the 23rd minute as Aberdeen settled and Foster went for the top corner as he pounced on a poor clearance but missed the target from the edge of the box.
Three minutes later Miller was denied by a well timed challenged by Kancelscu before Smith tested Gordon with a drilled shot. Gordon was again there to cut out a Smith cross before the Dons won another corner in the 28th minute. The resulting set play ended with Foster hitting a wild shot from about 40 yards. A good move from Foster almost produced an equaliser but the forwards were crowded out as they threatened to pull the trigger. Another great move in the 35th minute saw Considine release Clark and his cross caused all sort of problems as Miller flicked the ball on and Mackie just failed to connect.
Seconds later Lee Miller was very unlucky when he fired in a fierce shot that beat Gordon but agonisingly crashed off the post. A minute later Mackie set up Jamie Smith but his shot went inches over as the Dons looked in total control of the match. Suicidal defending in the 42nd minute almost allowed Velicka in for a second goal. Hearts were then awarded a soft free kick but Aberdeen had reorganised and defended the set play comfortably. Aberdeen ended the half on the attack as Foster set up Darren Mackie in the dying seconds.
Both teams made a change at the interval as both booked players were replaced with Touzani replacing Considine and Tall replacing Kancelscu. Hart made a careless mistake in the 48th minute when a pass went astray and gifted Hearts an early corner. Fortunately the home side were unable to capitalise on the error and two minutes later Aberdeen were back attacking and Foster was unceremoniously stopped on the edge of the box by Tall. After a lengthy delay Jamie Smith fired the ball tamely into the Hearts wall before the Dons forced a corner and Diamond headed the deep delivery back across goal but landed the ball on the top of the net.
Aberdeen continued to push forward and Hearts made a second change on the hour mark when Pospisil replaced Velicka. Almost immediately Hearts won a corner and a Bednar cross was narrowly missed by Pospisil. With the rain and wind causing real problems the game went through a scrappy stage but Darren Mackie should have levelled in the 65th minute when he fluffed a real scoring chance at the back post and tamely steered the ball wide with the goal gaping. A minute later Smith and Clark set up Mackie again but Gordon easily gathered the shot. At the other end Pospisil tested Langfield and the Aberdeen keeper gathered well.
Jamie Smith earned a yellow card in the 69th minute and the resulting free kick saw Driver fire inches over. Calderwood then decided to replace Lee Miller with Craig Brewster in the 73rd minute but it was Hearts who threatened the Aberdeen goal with a wicked cross that fortunately flashed across goal with no takers. Hearts then forced two corners with Langfield missing the first one and the second being comfortably cleared. There were shouts for a penalty five minutes later but the ball was fired at Diamond's arm from close range giving th edefender no chance of getting out of the way. Aberdeen sent on another forward to try and save the game as Lovell replaced Foster with ten minutes remaining.
It was the home side who were finishing the stronger however and Kingston forced a corner in the 82nd minute with Tall heading wide. There was further frustration for the red army as Hearts defenders continually fell to the ground every time an Aberdeen forward went near them allowing the home side to slow the game down and waste further time. Steve Lovell could have levelled in the 86th minute when Foster set him up. The striker controlled the ball well but then brushed the bar as he went for goal. At the other end Langfield made a double save from Karipidis and Kingston before Nicholson was booked two minutes later for a challenge on Kingston.
Aberdeen then grabbed a sensational equaliser in the 90th minute when good work by Smith and Brewster set up Barry Nicholson for the goal. Nicholson was yellow carded in the aftermath and was sent off and will miss the Celtic match next week. The assistant referee then spoke to the referee and Chris Clark was also yellow carded but it was unclear what this was for. Ten man Dons were handed four minutes to defend the point and Langfield didn't help when he fumbled a late corner. It mattered little as the whistle finally went and Aberdeen gained what could be a precious point.