Aberdeen had to fight hard this afternoon to grind out a famous win that takes them up to second spot in the SPL. Once again Niall McGinn was the man on target as he finished off a great move involving Clark and Hayes. The striker was calm in front of goal as he rounded the keeper and practically walked the ball into the net. The final twenty five minutes saw Hibs surge forward looking for an equaliser, but the men in red refused to yield and stood firm against the onslaught to claim all three points. The bad news was Osbourne limping off in the second half and hopefully his injury is not too serious as the Dons need to dust themselves down and prepare for the visit of Inverness in midweek. They will be on a high having cashed in on Celtics European exertions with a fine 1-0 win, which sees the Dons only a point off of top spot.
The match kicked off with Aberdeen adopting a positive looking 3-4-3 formation. The opening exchanges were frantic with no one prepared to put their foot on the ball, but Hibs won the first corner in the 4th minute when Magennis made an important block. Aberdeen cleared the danger, but the ball came back and Hibs won a free kick in a dangerous area. The wall blocked the effort from Griffiths and at the other end Considine whipped in a decent cross before being caught late. The keeper claimed the ball and the late challenge on Considine was missed. In the 9th minute good work from Hayes set up McGinn, but the striker curled his shot wide of the target.
A couple of minutes later Smith won a soft free kick 20 yards out, but Magennis' effort was blocked after Clark rolled the ball into his path. Good play down the left ended with a fine cross from McGinn, but Osbourne looped his header over the bar. At the other end Griffiths won an even softer free kick on the edge of the Aberdeen box, but the Dons were able to scramble the ball clear. Griffiths was given too much space in the 16th minute, but Anderson was eventually able to block the danger man. Cammy Smith intercepted a loose ball in the 19th minute and sprinted towards goal. The youngster delayed too long allowing the Hibs defence to get back and recover. Hibs then broke forward and forced a couple of corners as play raged from end to end.
A clash of heads between Magennis and Doyle delayed the game, but both players recovered. Aberdeen had started well, but neither side had yet looked like breaking the deadlock. In the 26th minute Magennis released Hayes before his cross was blocked. Aberdeen won their first corner in the 28th minute when a Magennis cross caused panic, but Hayes delivery was headed clear. Langfield was forced into the first save of the match when he made a great stop from a first time effort by Doyle. Following some Hibs pressure Aberdeen were back on the attack and a couple of crosses caused problems with McGinn unable to steer a Magennis delivery on target. Unfortunately the Dons couldn't convert the pressure into a goal.
McGinn made space for himself in the 37th minute, but he couldn't convert and as the Dons looked to continue the pressure the match was stopped for the umpteenth time for a soft challenge by Considine. Langfield was again forced into action when he turned a Griffith's bicycle kick round the post. The keeper had been looking uncomfortable since picking up a knock when making the early save, but he was still able to punch the corner clear. Hibs were finishing strongly and Langfield made another save from Griffith with five minutes of the half remaining. The two Dons centre backs combined in the final minute, but Considine checked his run and couldn't get on to Anderson's through ball. Magennis then surged forward, but his finish was well off target and the half ended all square.
Aberdeen made a tactical and personnel change at the interval as Fallon replaced Smith, but it was Hibs who started well and won a couple of early corners forcing Langfield into another fine save. Aberdeen held firm under the pressure, but they had to face another free kick as Anderson was penalised when Griffiths backed into him. In the 53rd minute Aberdeen won a free kick in a dangerous area and Hayes sent a shot narrowly wide. Challenges were getting meaty and play was starting to flow from end to end, but it was Griffiths who went close again when he beat two players and forced another save from Langfield in the 58th minute.
Play was getting stop-start as soft free kicks were awarded all over the pitch. A Hibs one went high over the bar, but at the other end Fallon went close when he met a cross and headed inches over. Osbourne then picked up a knock and his departure was bound to weaken the Dons midfield. Fallon had another header on target before Osbourne limped off to be replaced by Masson. Almost immediately Hayes broke forward and was taken down on the edge of the box, but the referee waved play on. Referee Bobby Madden then stopped the game for about two minutes as he spoke with both benches. Petulance from Griffiths went unpunished as the match stood on a knife edge.
Fallon and McGinn combine well in the 71st minute, but Hayes slipped as he went to collect a pass and the chance was gone. At the other end Doyle delayed his shot and Anderson was able to clear. Hibs had control of the midfield since Osbourne's departure, but in the 76th minute Fallon and McGinn combined to win a corner. Williams was forced to punch clear, but the game was getting stretched now and Clark made a great block as Hibs tried to break. He released Hayes down the left and he found McGinn in the middle. The Irishman went one-on-one with the keeper and walked the ball into the net. That goal had put the Red Army into full voice as they looked to cheer the Dons over the finish line. With ten minutes remaining Fallon won his first free kick of the afternoon to increase the volume of the Dons fans.
With seven minutes remaining Hayes tried to find Fallon, but the big striker couldn't quite get his head on the ball. At the other end both Claros and Wotherspoon had wild efforts on goal as they looked for an equaliser, but two minutes later the Dons had a lucky break. Concentration dropped for a moment and Taiwo was inches from levelling the match. Aberdeen were on the back foot now as Hibs pushed forward, but with two minutes remaining McGinn picked up the ball and took it forward to count down the clock. Considine was then pulled back and somehow had a free kick awarded against him allowing Hibs possession again. Seconds later Fallon made a great challenge and was also penalised as the Dons fans were on the edge of their seat.
In injury time Vernon made a great challenge to halt Griffiths allowing McGinn to break again. Caldwell then had a shot from distance that went harmlessly wide as Vernon and Fallon were pulled back to help at the back. A corner in the last minute caused more palpitations as Reynolds was forced into a goal stopping block but the Dons held out for a famous victory that takes them into second spot in the SPL only one point behind Celtic. In fact, only four points separate the top six as we witness the most competitive league in years.