Aberdeen lost to bottom placed Hearts for the second time this season- despite Niall McGinn giving them the lead during a dominant first half performance. The second half turned on the sending off of Barry Robson and Hearts took full advantage to return to the capital with all three points.
Derek McInnes made just 1 change to the side that defeated Partick Thistle by four goals to nil the previous Monday evening. Out went Cammy Smith to be replaced by Russell Anderson. That meant that Hector, Anderson, Reynolds and Considine lined up at the back, with Jack, Flood, Hayes & Pawlett in midfield and McGinn supporting Calvin Zola.
The Dons started positively- passing the ball about well but the only notable incident in the opening period was a shot over the bar by Ryan Jack from around 25 yards. The game exploded into life after 10 minutes when Jamie Hamill and Michael Hector attempted to go for the same ball- Hector winning the battle but Hamill caught Hector on the shoulder and was booked for his mistimed attempt to win the ball. It would be the first incident of a busy afternoon for referee Ian Brines to deal with.
A couple of minutes later, the ball eventually found its way to Jonny Hayes who crossed into the box from the right but neither McGinn or Zola could get close enough and it drifted out of play for a goal kick. McGinn did go close on 14 minutes with an effort from 25 yards.
Langfield saved well with his feet after a cross from the left evaded everyone and landed for Stevenson. A short time later, Pawlett found Hayes who drove down the left and was clearly obstructed by a combination of McHattie and the already booked Hamill. Referee Brines avoided booking either of the players and the free kick was wasted as referee Brines blew for a foul as the kick was played in.
Willo Flood found himself booked on 20 minutes when he cleared the ball away from the on rushing McHattie and caught the player accidently after playing the ball. A harsh decision against the Dons midfielder.
The Dons continued to dominate proceedings and were playing some nice football. There were cries for a penalty from the home fans when Pawlett picked up the ball in midfield and drove into the box where he went down under the close attentions of Hamill. The referee waved play on despite the appeals.
Aberdeen were then dealt a major blow when Willo Flood picked up an injury while stretching to reach the ball and had to be replaced by Barry Robson. A few minutes later though they took the lead. McGinn won a corner off McGowan which Robson swung in. It evaded everyone but eventually fell to McGinn who fired home powerfully past Macdonald. It was no more than they deserved for a fine start to the game.
Almost immediately, Hearts were awarded a soft free kick around 30 yards out and when they took it the referee adjudged that Robson had broken from the wall too early and was booked. It would prove costly.
The Dons responded by creating more chances. Firstly, McGinn saw his powerful drive clutched by Macdonald before a fantastic touch from Robson into the feet of Pawlett who evaded the challenge in the box and shot across Macdonald but saw it drift just beyond the far post from a tight angle.
There was then double drama in the Hearts box. Firstly, the ball found its way to Michael Hector in the box who fired it towards goal, Pawlett flicked it on target and Dylan McGowan appeared to handle it on the line. Despite the huge cries of 'Penalty' from the stands and from a number of Dons players- referee Brines waved play on again.However just a few seconds later Calum Paterson handled the ball and the referee had no option but to point to the spot. McGinn stepped up to take the kick but it Macdonald saved low to his left to deny the Northern Irishman.
A great cross by Pawlett was missed by inches by Zola as the Dons attempted to get a second before half time and just before the break McGinn did well to beat a defender on the stroke and broke clear with Zola in support but his attempted cross was poor and went over the cross bar.
Once again the Dons started the second half well and on the front foot but they were dealt another major blow 9 minutes in. Hearts cleared from the edge of their own box and the ball was picked up by Holt who drove into the centre circle. Robson- already on a yellow card- closed the player down and despite the smallest of touches Brines brought out the yellow card again and reduced the Dons to 10 men.
Despite being a man down, the Dons responded well and should have scored a few minutes later. They won a corner which Johnny Hayes whipped into the near post superbly and Andrew Considine headed the ball inches past the post. Derek McInnes made his second substitution with Calvin Zola replaced by Scott Vernon- as has been the case in recent games.
Hearts then created their first real chance of the match- substitute Smith hitting a shot on the volley which Jamie Langfield did well to tip on to the bar. Incredibly the keeper's touch wasn't seen and a goal kick awarded to the Dons. Seconds later Hearts fired another warning to the depleted home side when they hit a shot just by the post. But at the other end Vernon had a great effort at goal which Macdonald punched over the bar for a corner.
The visitors got themselves back into the game on 66 minutes through a simple goal. A free kick was floated into the box, flicked on and picked up by Holt who controlled well and slotted beyond Langfield. Again the home side responded well and a long ball into the box on 73 minutes nearly saw McGinn latch on to it but it was well defended and cleared for a corner. From that corner, Vernon got a great header on to it but bounced agonisingly just short of the line. Then just a couple of minutes later Johnny Hayes found the side netting after good work from McGinn down the right.
A short time later though the Dons found themselves behind in the match for the first time. McHattie played in Jamie Walker who prodded the ball across goal, no Dons defender cleared and Paterson fired home at the back post. A disappointing goal to lose.
The home side- backed by a fantastic crowd of 13,940- went in search of an equaliser and the Dons broke well on 79 minutes with Hayes eventually winning his side a corner kick before Cammy Smith replaced Michael Hector. Scott Vernon headed wide again after a good McGinn run down the left and when fourth official Mat Northcroft signalled 4 minutes of added time there was a large roar from the home fans.
The Dons piled on the pressure without creating anything clear cut and when Langfield went up for a Dons corner, the visitors defended well and broke. Johnny Hayes made a good stop on the half way line as Langfield scampered back to his goal. Unfortunately the ball landed kindly for Hearts, Stevenson drove forward and finished really well beyond the Dons keeper to seal the points for the bottom of the table side.
A frustrating afternoon for Aberdeen.