Aberdeen continued their impressive record of having never been beaten by Inverness with a 2-1 victory that sees them move up the table above Hearts and Kilmarnock. However the win came at a cost as both Scott Severin and Darren Mackie limped off in the first half and both must be rated as doubtful for Thursday night's trip to Athens.
Aberdeen were forced into two team changes from the side that beat St Mirren two weeks ago. Hart and Considine were replaced by Mair and McNamara. On a perfect autumns afternoon for football the Dons in their white kits lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, Mair in central defence alongside Zander Diamond with McNamara at right back and Richard Foster at left back. It was the same midfield that started against St Mirren. Severin and Nicholson in the centre with Derek Young left and de Visscher on the right side. And upfront Miller and Mackie resume their partnership.
Although fit, Craig Brewster did not include himself in the Inverness squad.
In the second minute a long Scott Severin ball found Lee Miller. He set up de Visscher who tried to play a pass through but gave the ball away when he really should have had a shot. After three minutes McNamara, back after the missing the past five games, is taken down after a fine run. Scott Severin took the free kick but blasted wide. With former Hibs keeper Malkowski making his debut in goal it was disappointing he was not tested.
Malkowski looked a bit nervous as he made some poor clearances. On 6minutes he got an ironic cheer from the home fans when he managed to clear the ball over the half way line however the locals were less impressed with him a minute later. 7 minutes gone and Aberdeen took the lead. It was a good counter attack after Darren Mackie had done well to win the ball with a good tackle in the centre circle. Derek Young ran from the half way line, then showed great composure, cutting inside Duncan and McGuire, then firing a low shot which squirmed under the Inverness keeper Malkowski. It was a decent shot but the keeper really should have done better.
On 10 mins McNamara and de Visscher combined well down the right. Jackie played in a fine cross that Mackie got his head to but was unable to get any power into it.
The home side had started very slowly and were allowing the Dons to pass the ball about at will. They did finally show signs of life in the 12th minute when Tokely had a strong run down the right but his cross was just too high for ex Don Wyness. A minute later Inverness claimed for a penalty as the ball stuck McNamara but referee Eddie Smith correctly decided that the ball was blasted at the right back from close range and there was little he could do to get out of the way.
On the 20 minute mark the impressive Romanian Niculae created space for himself and hit a good low shot but Langfield handled the ball comfortably.
From a free kick on 24 minutes, McNamara once again got time and space to cross from the right. He found Zander Diamond who had come forward but was unable to keep his powerful headed down. 27 minutes. Aberdeen were again in complete control, with Severin pulling all the stings in midfield. He found Young down the left, who strolled past Tokely. His deep cross found de Visscher but his header from distance was weak. On the half hour mark though there was real concern for the Dons with Scott Severin looking to be limping. He came over to the technical area for a chat with physio John Sharp and thankfully was able to continue.
34 mins. Zander Diamond is caught out and Niculae puts in as superb cross that almost finds Hastings at the back post but de Visscher did very well to track back and clear it at the expense of a corner. From the corner the ball falls to Black at the edge of the box but he shoots just over.
Inverness are at this stage are back in the game. Largely due to the fact Severin is still struggling as is not dominating the match the way he was earlier.
A minute later Niculae again put in a superb cross that was knocked down to Wyness. His curling effort beats Langfield who remained stuck to the spot but the keeper is delighted to see the ball dip just over the bar. Then seconds later Wyness had a header that has Langfield scrambling but again goes just the wrong side of the bar.
42 minutes. Scott Severin has to finally admit defeat with his injury and is replaced by Richie Byrne. The Irishman moves to left back and Foster goes to right back with McNamara moving into midfield. Then further disaster for the Dons as Darren Mackie limped off just on the stroke of half time.
As expected Darren Mackie is unable to continue and is replaced by Steve Lovell.
During the half time interval the management team had a chance to re-organise things. That reorganisation works well as in the open period of the second half the Dons look far more composed than they did at the end of the first period.
Lovell who has spent much of the season on the bench, was looking sharp and had a couple of half chances. However once again Inverness took control and just before the hour mark they got a deserved equaliser. The ball was sent down the left and a good cross from Duncan to the near post found Wyness who nipped in to header past Langfield. It was Wyness' 100th goal for Inverness and it was clear from his celebration how much it meant to him. (58 mins)
However Aberdeen hit back immediately.
Ex Don Phil Maguire fouled Miller. McGuire was booked for the tackle. De Visscher played in a wicked free kick and Miller and Byrne challenged Tokely in the air. The Inverness defender won the header but he could only watched in despair as the ball rolled past the helpless Malkowski.
The goal took the wind out of the sales of Inverness side and the crowd.
73 minutes. Tactical change for the Dons. De Visscher who had a good afternoon is replaced by fellow Dutchman Karim Touzani.
Just as the Dons were beginning to look comfortable Langfield was called into action to produce a superb save. Niculae hit a brilliant first time volley but Langfield was equal to it as he dives to his right and pushes the ball out.
Inverness then take off Black with Barry Wilson coming on (74 minutes) The Dons have to defend deep but are holding Inverness well. The midfield and strikers working tirelessly to help protect the defence. 85 minutes Marius Niculae is replaced by Bayne.
Shortly after that Lee Miller takes out the referee which gets the biggest cheer of the afternoon. Poor Eddie Smith is sent flying but it shows the determination of Miller that nothing is doing to get in his way. The striker by now is almost playing right midfield but putting in a superb shift to help the team. Into injury time and Steve Lovell missed a great opportunity. He did very well to engineer a shooting opportunity but dragged his shot just wide. You feel a sharper Steve Lovell might have done better. The miss did not matter though and the final whistle went a short time after.
It was not pretty, although it rarely is against Inverness who battle so well. Every Dons player worked hard to make sure they held on for the three points. Lee Mair was the Setanta Man of the Match. Both he and Zander played very well. RedWeb man of the match was Lee Miller for his work rate and effort throughout the 90 mins.
Aberdeen: Langfield, McNamara, Diamond, Severin, Nicholson, Mackie, Foster, Miller, Mair, Young, de Visscher Subs Kelly, Byrne, Lovell, Touzani, D Smith, Maguire, Aluko
Inverness: Malkowski, Tokely, McGuire, Munro, Hastings, Cowie, Duncan, Black, McBain, Wyness, Niculae. Subs Fraser, Wilson, Bayne, McDonald, Kerr, Vigurs, Proctor