Aberdeen beat league leaders Inverness this afternoon in a tense battle. The Dons were the better team in the first half with Zola causing a lot of problems in the area with his height and strength. The best chance came when the striker laid the ball off to Cammy Smith and his low shot was brilliantly saved by Brill. The second half was a much closer affair with few chances at either end. However on 80 minutes substitute Scott Vernon from a Pawlett flick on turned and hit a superb shot low into the corner of the net. Inverness threw everything at the Dons in the final stages but in the end it was a comfortable afternoon for Jamie Langfield.
Aberdeen lined up the same way as last week. In a 4-1-4-1 formation Langfield was in goal with Shaughnessy at right back, Hector and Considine in central defence and Reynolds at left back. Jack was the holding midfielder with Hayes and Wylde wide and Pawlett and Smith through the middle. Zola was up front.
The Dons had a very early chance after Pawlett was pulled down for a free kick about 30 yards out. The ball was chipped to the back post and fell at the feet of Michael Hector. He was in a good area and although he created space for himself he could not really get the shot away.
On five minutes Jack almost got himself in trouble when he tried to stop the ball going out. Thankfully the Dons defence were able to recover the situation as Langfield was out of his goal. On six minutes a great long ball by Reynolds set Zola free and he won a corner. The ball was played to the back post area, Brill struggled to catch it under pressure from Zola and Hector was almost able to get again but his barged effort was deflected behind. Hayes then swung in a great ball which Shaughnessy rose well to head on target but it was cleared off the line. The ball hit a ruck of players and it may even have been have been Zola who blocked it.
The Dons had started well and were looking confident when going forward. Zola was causing the ICT rear guard problems. His hold up play was allowing the runners - Wylde, Hayes, Smith and Pawlett the chance to run onto the ball in good areas. On 10 minutes Pawlett broke forward and hit a shot from about 20 yards which just went past Brill's left hand post.
The Dons continued to look the better team and on 18 minutes they went very close to opening the score. Pawlett played the ball forward into Zola. He did really well to hold it up before laying it off to Cammy Smith. The youngster, who has scored some spectacular goals for the Youth team over the years, hit a great low shot but Dean Brill dived to his left and made a fantastic save.
On 28 minutes another ball into the ICT box was not dealt with. Hector was again lurking at the back of the area. He powered to the byline but his cutback agonisingly failed to find a red jersey. A good chance wasted. ICT then won their first corner of the afternoon but the Dons defended it well. The Dons players and crowd were incensed on the half hour mark when Cammy Smith was booked for a tackle on Warren. The ICT player had already made a few strong tackles but was not even spoken to.
At this point the visitors slowly came into the game. Langfield had one save to make but it was a very tame effort from Foran and hardly worth a mention. On 37 minutes the Dons won another corner. Another good delivery from Hayes this time found Hector but his header was tipped over by Brill. A safe you would expect the keeper to make. Aberdeen kept the pressure on with another couple of corners but could not create any openings.
ICT started the second half well.
Top scorer Billy McKay, who hardly saw the ball in the first half, managed to get a shot in but Langfield was well positioned and made a comfortable save. On 49 minutes the biggest cheer of the afternoon so far; when Craig Thomson booked Draper for a foul on Pawlett.
Throughout the game the Dons were quite happy to mix it up. They were playing some good passing football but were also happy to go direct to try and find Zola. This was proving to be a good tactic as it was a way of getting the ball forward quickly, before the Inverness defence could get set. On 57 minutes the big striker did well to win the ball and his pass across the face of goal very nearly picked out Wylde who was lurking. That was Wylde's last involvement. He was replaced by Nicky Low. The Dons also made a tactical change as Low went into centre midfield and Pawlett went over to the left. On 66 minutes Derek McInnes then replaced Zola with Magennis. During this period there was not a lot happening although referee Craig Thomson was not helping the flow of the game. There were a lot of booking for a game which hardly saw a bad tackle. On 67 minutes the impressive Shaughnessy did try an ambitious overhead kick inside the box, he was obviously feeling lucky this week..... and Cammy Smith did well at the edge of the area but he fluffed his shot wide. On 71 minutes Smith did much better at the other end. From a corner the ball was headed goalwards and thankfully Smith was on the line to clear. Inverness were enjoying a good little spell of pressure and Mckay minutes later had a half chance inside the box but he hooked the ball over.
Manager Derek McInnes made his final change in the 76th minute when Vernon replaced Cammy Smith. The manager's substitutions won him the game today.
As the game headed into the last ten minutes in looked like the match would end goalless. The Dons though won a free kick on the 79th minute which Hayes played into the box. The ball was cleared and the danger appeared to be over. However Nicky Low, who was outstanding when he came on, did well to quickly fire the ball back into the area. Peter Pawlett brilliantly flicked the ball on. Vernon picked it up inside the penalty area although he still had a lot to do. He took a touch before swivelling and planting the ball into the corner of the net. Brill had no chance. What a finish, his first of the season. The reaction from Scott showed you what it meant to him, also the players reaction told you how pleased everyone was for the striker.
With ten to minutes to go you thought it might be a nervy finish but it was the Dons who had the better chances. Low's superb long ball almost found Magennis and Hayes produced a fine solo effort and with the outside of his foot, put a shot just past the post. At the other end the defence were doing their job very well. Mark Reynolds was the sponsors man of the match, Michael Hector or Andrew Considine could easily have picked up the award as well. Hector looks a quality player.
Aberdeen saw out three minutes of injury time to claim a very good win.