Aberdeen made two changes from their win over Kilmarnock. Loan signing Alan Tate was handed a debut after Michael Hector's temporary spell at the club had come to an end, while captain Russell Anderson was rested and replaced by Joe Shaughnessy. The Dons lined up with Langfield in goal, Hayes at left back with Reynolds and Tate in the centre of defence with Shaughnessy at right back. It was the usual midfield with McGinn, Flood, Jack and Robson with Pawlett in the free role in behind Vernon upfront.
In the early stages the Dons did not get into their stride and twice Jamie Langfield had get off his line quickly to save at the feet of Heffernan. On one of the occasions the Hibs striker, who looked lively all night, got between Reynolds and the keeper and when he went to ground all eyes were on referee Craig Thomson but he waved play on. Heffernan made no issue of the decision so the striker himself was maybe not convinced he had been fouled.
Hibs had much the better of the early play but did not really create any opportunities of note.
As expected Hibs pressed Aberdeen and the Dons players had no time on the ball. Hibs under Terry Butcher are now also playing a more direct style and at times it was quite effective. On 19 minutes the pace of Hayes at the back was needed when Heffernan managed to get the wrong side of the defence but Jonny got back, got passed him and managed to clear the ball to safety. On 21 minutes a chance for James Collins when the ball was swung in from the right but his first time shot finished nearer the corner flag than the goal.
Eventually the Dons worked out the best way to keep possession and were starting to come back into the game.
On 22 minutes McGinn's cross was headed behind by Craig. McGinn took the kick which was defended at the back post area, then the ball would just not fall for Robson who was waiting for it to come down. The Dons won two more corners but in the end Vernon was penalised for pushing.
On 26 minutes a major talking point. The Dons should have had a penalty. Pawlett was played in and got to the by-line before dinking the ball back. His cross looked to be landing at the feet of Vernon or the on rushing McGinn but Michael Nelson stuck out an arm to knock the ball to safety. Astonishingly Craig Thomson waved play on. You have to ask how the referee and near side linesman both decided it was no penalty? At least the incident brought the crowd and the players to life. On 29 minutes a chance for the Dons when Robson fired over a great corner, Reynolds headed it at the back post area but Williams saved before the ball was knocked away from Vernon. On 31 minutes Scott Robertson booked for a trip on Pawlett after the midfielder had burst clear with one of his trademark runs.
The Dons were by now beginning to get into their stride. On 34 minutes good play down the left set McGinn free. He played a great ball in across the face of goal and McGivern at the back post did well to knock the ball to safety. The Dons were really dominating now, the corner count was now up to six. On 37 minutes it was corner number seven. A training ground move saw the ball played low to McGinn but his shot was blocked. Despite all the set pieces Aberdeen had not forced a clear cut scoring opportunity. Niall McGinn then flashed a low shot wide of Williams and the post. Then there was another claim for a spot-kick - Alan Tate then played a great ball forward and Shaughnessy went down in the box but again Thomson waved play on. It might have been a foul but to be fair it would have been a very soft penalty. Hibs came back into it a bit at the end of the half and Mark Reynolds on 42 minutes did extremely well to head clear a James Collins cross. Hayes then miscued a clearance which landed at the feet of Heffernan but thankfully the striker pulled his shot wide of the post.
Like the first half, the Dons were slow in getting started.
On 50 minutes Alan Tate endeared himself to the red army with a neat turn to get himself out of trouble. The Swansea man had a fine game. On 51 minutes Heffernan took a ball over his shoulder but never caught the shot properly and Langfield was able to make an easy save. Two minutes later Stevenson tried his luck from about 25 yards out but the ball sailed over.
The Dons then went through a bad spell and got themselves in trouble when first Tate, then Hayes and then Shaughnessy were all guilty of giving the ball away. Thankfully on each occasion the defence were able to regroup and clear. Shaughnessy became the second man booked for a crunching tackle on Lewis Stevenson.
On 56 minutes Robson played a great ball for Vernon which Hanlon headed behind for another corner. It was good defending from Hanlon. Robson again played in a testing ball but again the Dons could not create an opening. On the hour mark the Dons won a free kick in a good area. Robson again played in a decent ball but the Hibs defence cleared their lines.
On 61 minutes Tate was penalised for a high foot when going in for a 50/50 with Heffernan. Another strange decision. Paul Cairney drew a save from Langfield with a free-kick from distance but it was a comfortable save. Then the first real chance for the Dons in the second half. Robson played in an in swinger, it was a dangerous ball in and it was flicked on by McGinn but his header was not on target. Hayes had made a run in behind and was unmarked if Niall had left it. On 64 minutes another free kick taken by Robson but again the Hibs defence dealt with it well.
Hibs defended really well all night.
On 65 minutes Robson had a shot after being set up by Jack. His shot was travelling but was blocked. The ball rebounded out to Flood but his effort went well over. Aberdeen were slowly beginning to get on top again and were doing a better job of holding onto the ball. On 73 Robson played over the ball and for almost the first time all evening an Aberdeen player won the first header but Vernon's effort went just over. With fifteen minutes to go Aberdeen were now in control again but Hibs were defending resolutely. Ben Williams was also in fine form. He is a good keeper and always plays well against us.
The Dons have scored a lot of late goals this season, and there was going to have to be another one if they were going to win this game.
On 82 minutes the Dons first change saw Vernon coming off and Zola coming on. Zola was involved immediately but his headed went behind for a goal kick. The Dons had been very patient but this was maybe a sign in the final minutes they were going to be more direct. On 85 minutes Hibs won their first corner of the game. They are very dangerous from set pieces but Langfield came out and claimed it well. On 86 minutes McGinn did well to beat his man and played the ball into the danger zone but it was cleared out of the area and landed at the feet of Flood. From 30 yards out the midfielder picked it up and no one really closed him down. He then hit a shot which just flew past everyone into the net. What a goal!! It was hit like a missile. Williams as we said was a good keeper but he never even moved.
Minutes later on the break Williams did well to pick the ball up at the feet of Zola after a neat dummy by Flood. Anderson then replaced Hayes and Magennis replaced McGinn as the Dons tried to defend their lead. Hibs pushed bodies forward but in the end they held out comfortably. The Dons deserved this one. It was always only going to be a 1-0 win and thanks to Flood's wonder strike they got it.