Craig Brown was forced to make a late change when Scott Vernon fell ill this morning and returned home as the team made their way to Inverness. There were six other changes to the side which disappointed so greatly at Hampden. Jamie Langfield was included in a starting XI for the first time this season. Josh Magennis was given a start at right back. In central defence Russell Anderson made his first start since returning to the club. He partnered Mark Reynolds and Andrew Considine moved over to left back. In midfield Jack and Fyvie were to play in the centre but with Vernon pulling out on the morning of the game Fyvie went over to the left, Rae and Arnason were in the middle with Jack on the right. Megginson was moved from the left to play just off Fallon up front.
There were nine players unavailable including Darren Mackie who was also ill and Stephen Hughes who picked up a knock last week. On the bench the manager included U19 players Cammy Smith, Jamie Masson and Danny Rogers replaced Jason Brown who was absent for personal reasons.
Jamie Langfield was given a great reception as the team entered the field by the small band of Aberdeen loyal fans who had made the trip North. All eyes were also on Josh Magennis who was starting at right back. Josh has been working hard in training and in the series of friendly games on being a defender. On 3 minutes Josh had a good powerful run. He was in a good position and decided to shoot with his left foot. He maybe got a bit carried away as he had options either side of him. A good start though.
On 4 minutes Hayes, who has had a fine season, made a good run down the right. His cross was defended by Magennis and when another cross came over Reynolds did well to get in ahead of Tade and head the ball back to Langfield. A good early touch for the keeper. Then a slip by Magennis allowed in Doran but thankfully Anderson was able to come over and cover Tade and then Doran over hit his cross.
On 9 minutes the best opening of the first half fell to the home side. A lose clearance by Anderson saw his header fall to Tade on the edge of the area. The striker hit a strong shot which was on target but Langfield did really well to block.
Then three minutes later Langfield's opposite number gave the Dons a good opportunity. Magennis took a long throw which was unexplainably dropped by Tuffey. The keeper was extremely fortunate that there were no Aberdeen players around him as they would have had a tap in.
Despite the half chance the Dons had really not got going in the early stages. They were doing nothing going forward and they had Jamie Langfield to thank again when Hayes forced him to make another good save. Then on 16 minutes Hayes had another shot but this time the save was more comfortable for Langers.
The game certainly had an end of season feel to it. That is me being kind. There were a lot of petty fouls and an over fussy referee did not help the game flow. On 23 minutes Doran again went close when he was allowed to shoot. His chipped effort hit the roof of the net. Langfield watched it closely all the way though.
You have to battle against Inverness, do the ugly stuff first before you can play football. You have to at least match them physically and as the half wore on the Dons started to do this. Gavin Rae in particular was working hard in the middle of the park.
On 31 minutes a chance for the Dons when they won a free kick in a dangerous position. Arnason tried a pile driver which was blocked. The ball eventually fell to Jack who looked for Fallon at the back post but his looping cross was too long. The game at this stage badly needed a goal although it did not look like coming from the Dons. There were too many fancy final balls which failed to work. Jack on two occasions gave the ball away in good positions on the edge of the box.
From the half hour mark to the end of the half the Dons did enjoy a better spell. Megginson looking as if he has the beating of Golobart.
On 36 minutes Jack became the first name into the refs book when he lost the the ball and then fouled Tade. From the resulting free kick Doran curled the ball over the wall into a dangerous area and Langfield did really well to hold it as it took a horrible bounce just in front of him. Excellent keeping.
The Dons were now far more physical in their tackles. On 39 minutes Considine was booked for foul on Hayes. Or it might have been for kicking the ball away. Then a minute later from the free kick Steve Williams had the ball in the net after an excellent finish but he was offside. ICT captain Richie Foran was furious but he looked well offside. Some finish by the defender though!
On 42 minute Anderson played a neat pass inside the full back to Magennis who had made a good run. He bulldozed his way into the box, got the break of the ball and got to by-line but Golobart did well to come across and defend the situation. From the throw in Magennis took another long one and Fallon was clearly impeded as the defender had his arms all over him. Should have been pen, although they are very rarely given.
Then on the stroke of half time the Dons very nearly took the lead. Finally they put together a good move. Considine, Fyvie and Rae linked up. Rae played a superb through ball for Jack to run onto but he put his shot inches past the past. The keeper was rooted to the spot and if Jack had hit the target it was a goal.
Aberdeen took the lead just after the restart. Another long throw by Magennis to the near post area, caused panic amongst the Inverness defence. Arnason went in to challenge with Golobart and it looked like the ICT player got the touch as the ball flew past Tuffey who got a hand to it but could not keep the ball out of the net. Arnason claimed it but it did look an own goal. Anyway it did not matter, the Dons were ahead.
Straight away from the restart Anderson was forced to show his experience when he made a great tackle on Hayes on the edge of the box when the ICT player had an opening. Anderson maybe is not back to full fitness but he still reads the game better than anyone. Russell also formed a good partnership Mark Reynolds. Behind them Langfield was also looking commanding. Inverness threw some long balls into the box which the keeper did well to first of all punch clear and then he claimed a good catch.
There was more action in the first five minutes at the start of the second half that all of the first.
The Dons were made to make their first change of the afternoon on 54 minutes when Fallon took a knock after a tussle with Meekings. Cammy Smith came on to make his Aberdeen debut at only 16 years of age. Straight away with his first touch he set up Megginson with a good pass and he very nearly got on the end of the return ball. With Megginson upfront on his own and Smith playing just behind him the Dons were now forced to play the ball on the ground.
On 62 minutes Anderson's header broke off Tade who was clear. It was a race with Tade, Magennis and Reynolds but Magennis hauled the striker down just on the edge of the box. ICT claimed he was last man by Reynolds was also in attendance. The resulting free kick was wasted by the home side as Tade blasted over. A let off for the Dons.
Inverness then made a couple of changes to try and get back into the game. The Dons would have been glad to see the back of Tade who has scored too many goals against them over the years. The home side were enjoying the territorial possession at this stage but Langfield did not really have much to do. On 68 minutes Tudur Jones flicked on a long throw and it just went pass the post. Langfield did not look overly concerned.
Cammy Smith was being cheered by the Dons fans every time he got a touch. The youngster seemed to be revelling in the occasion.
Aberdeen were now struggling to hold onto the ball so the management team made a sensible substitution. McArdle came on for Megginson and Magennis moved upfront and McArdle went to right back. Both players were to play a vital role in the final 20 minutes.
The Dons should have had a penalty on 75 minutes. Smith Jack and Fyvie brilliantly linked up, the best move of the game by a mile, Fyvie got to the by-line before pinging the ball back. The ball fell to Rae who had a shot which was blocked by Golobart. It looked a clear hand ball and his intervention stopped an almost certain goal.
ICT then won a series of corners. McArdle did really well at the back post on one occasion and then Hayes wasted a golden opportunity when he fired over. McArdle then did really well again when the ball was played inside the Dons defence. He managed to position himself and block a Sutherland shot. Really good defending.
The home side then won another free kick in a dangerous position when Anderson fouled Hayes. The set piece was in a better area to get a shot on target but Doran curled this one just over.
The Dons made their final change with 10 minutes or so left. Chris Clark replaced Ryan Jack who will now join up with the Scotland U21 squad for their friendly against Italy on Wednesday night at Easter Road.
In those last ten minutes the home side put some real pressure on the Dons.
Inverness though failed to capitalise on their lionshare of possession and Shane Sutherland wasted their best chance. He was able to get the ball onto his left foot as the Dons defence backed off but he blazed over. Then came another free kick! Rae adjudged to have pushed Doran. This was in an even better position right on the edge of the box but again Hayes blasted over.
Aberdeen had an odd moment on the break. Arnason flicked the ball on and Smith gathered. He decided to shoot and although the ball went well over he was showing great confidence.
Then as the pressure built in the final few minutes, the Dons made the game safe with a goal on the break. Magennis fought for the ball on the half way line. He had the strength to hold off the defenders and ran in on goal. His shot was saved by Tuffey but the keeper had no luck as the ball broke off Kenny Gillet and went in the net. Josh deserved the goal, he showed great power and pace.
In the final act of the game a lovely turn by Smith to completely leave his man for dead. This will not be the last we have seen of Cammy Smith........