Derek McInnes made two changes to the side with Jonny Hayes recovering from his injury to replace Gregg Wylde and Scott Vernon returned to the starting XI in place of Calvin Zola. The manager also made some tactical changes with the Dons employing a 3-5-2 formation. They lined up with Langfield in goal, a back three of Reynolds, Anderson and Considine. The wing backs were Hayes on the left and Hector on the right. Jack and Robson were the sitting midfielders with Pawlett again given a free role and McGinn supporting Vernon up front.
Sir Alex Ferguson was amongst the 4741 supporters in attendance this afternoon. 50 years ago he scored a famous hat-trick for the Perth club against Rangers.
In the early seconds Peter Pawlett put over a decent cross but it was too close to the keeper Alan Mannus. St Johnstone then won a free kick in a dangerous area but their training ground move did not quite come off and then Considine put over a long throw which was flicked on by Reynolds but was cleared by the Saints defence. Then one on one Anderson did really well to keep the ever lively Stevie May at bay. The first real chance of the game came on 7 minutes when Vernon and Pawlett linked up well. Pawlett was put clear although he went slightly wide and his shot from the angle went inches past the past.
The Dons made a tactical change early on with them going to more of a 4-4-2 formation. Considine moving to the left back role and Hayes came over to the right wing.
On 16 minutes the Dons put a good move together and the ball was worked to Hayes. He put over a good cross and Pawlett was not far away from getting a touch. Then a minute later the Dons took the lead with a brilliant goal. Robson did really well to put pressure on the Saints player on the half way line and to win the ball. Vernon collected it from Robson and flicked it into the path of Pawlett who was around 25 yards out. Peter hit a superb shot with his left foot low into the corner of the net. The shot was very well placed and Mannus had no chance.
The Dons then dominated proceedings for the next 20 minutes or so although they did not create too many chances. On 23 minutes the ball was played to Hector in the box but he could not get a shot away as the ball got stuck under his feet a bit. Then two minutes later the Dons hit on the break again. McGinn played the ball wide to Vernon and his lob to the back post area just went over the bar.
By the half hour mark St Johnstone were slowly coming more into proceedings but the Dons were looking really solid at the back and well organised in the middle of the park.The game then became quite scrappy with both teams guilty of misplaced passes.
On 37 minutes Jamie Langfield was involved for the first time and the Dons keeper produced a brilliant save. A mistake by Reynolds allowed May to get in and as he battled for the ball it broke kindly for him. From close range he hit a powerful shot which appeared to going in but from point blank range Langfield showed great reflexes to dive and get a strong right hand on the ball to push it behind.
On 39 minutes McGinn and Pawlett linked up well and Peter almost squeezed the ball in at the near post but the Saints defenders blocked it and the ball went behind for the Dons first corner of the afternoon. They then won a second corner and although Robson played in a good ball the keeper came and collected the cross. On the stroke of half time Robson gave the ball away in a dangerous area. May played in Hasselbaink and the Dons defence only just did enough to stop him getting into a good shooting area.
At the start of the second half Stevie May had another chance when the ball was teed up to him on the edge of the area but his shot went just over the bar. Then from a corner Hayes claimed for a penalty when he went down in the area as he tried to latch onto the loose ball. From the players reaction he felt he was clipped. On 49 minutes Pawlett went very close to grabbing his second. It was Peter who created the opportunity when he broke forward at pace. He played it in wide to Hayes. He ran forward and cut the ball back to Pawlett. He caught the ball sweetly with a first time shot but Mannus did well to make the block.
The travelling Dons fans once again created a tremendous atmosphere this afternoon and the players were responding to that. The game had by now become a real physical battle with some tasty challenges going in all over the park as both teams showed good commitment. Saying that the tackles were fair and Barry Robson was slightly unlucky to pick up a yellow card on 51 minutes.
On 54 minutes St Johnstone made a change with Edwards replacing Millar. Three minutes later the sub had a good opening after he got the better of Considine. The winger had time and acres of space but he shot early and shot straight at Langfield. He had plenty of options but chose the wrong one. His manager on the touchline looked less than impressed. On 62 minutes Vernon's cross was only inches away from Anderson of all people as the game continued to move from end to end at a decent pace.
On 68 minutes Tommy Wright made his second change on the afternoon. Nigel Hasselbaink, who had been well marshalled all afternoon, was replaced by Rory Fallon. The ex Don though lasted less than a minute on the field. He challenged Michael Hector and appeared to use an elbow. Willie Collum had no doubt and produced a red card. It was the second time Collum has sent Fallon off, the Kiwi was sent off for a similar incident when playing for Aberdeen against Rangers. Fallon was only on the park for only 51 seconds.
On 76 minutes Derek McInnes made his first change of the afternoon. Willo Flood came on for Jonny Hayes. It is the first time since the opening day of the season Flood and Robson have been on the field together. On 81 minutes Vernon had a chance after fine storming run by Considine but the Englishman pulled his shot wide.The Dons were making slightly heavy weather of being a man to the good but thankfully on 84 minutes Niall McGinn made the game safe. He picked the ball up inside his own half. He did not have a lot of support despite the manager standing on the touch line urging players to get forward. He ran forward and from about 30 yards out- and from a difficult angle- McGinn looked up and then hit a rocket which went into the top corner. What a screamer!
The Dons had dominated most of the game and were finally able to enjoy the final few minutes. Josh Magennis replaced Scott Vernon. The big striker had a very good game, his work rate was tremendous. Also Nicky Low came on Barry Robson. The 1903 Dons fans (yes really that was the away attendance) enjoyed another really encouraging win against a side who had only lost one match at home before this in the calendar year. If the Dons continue this form the next calendar year could be an exciting one for the Red Army.