Aberdeen saw off a stern challenge from Fraserburgh FC at Pittodrie on Wednesday night in the first round of the Morrison Motors Aberdeenshire Shield where they had to come from behind twice, before eventually securing progression via a penalty shootout where Ross Doohan delivered two excellent saves.
It was the development Dons who stepped up on the night to play the biggest role with Adam Emslie and Alfie Stewart both scoring during the 90 minutes, before Findlay Marshall remained composed to smash the match winning spot kick home from 12 yards after the shootout went to sudden death.
Aberdeen named a strong starting XI for the first-round clash with regular first team faces such as Angus MacDonald, Ester Sokler and Pape Habib Gueye all drafted into a side that also featured a host of development Dons, including Formartine loanees Dylan Lobban and Adam Emslie. There were also starting spaces for Marshall and Jack Milne, who recently joined Findlay in committing his long-term future to the club. Summer signings Ross Doohan, Rhys Williams and Or Dadia were also all involved, and there was a starting space for Vincente Besuijen.
The visitors made two changes to their team that were defeated 4-1 at Huntly in the Highland league on Saturday – Lewis Davidson and Josh Bolton came into the side, Logan Watt and Connor Wood those who made way. Willie West captained the Broch on what was his 650th appearance for the club.
The opening 20 minutes passed without any real goal mouth action. Besuijen’s chipped through ball to Marshall looked promising, but Joe Barbour was alert and came out to claim the ball inside his six-yard box.
It was then the ‘Broch who created a couple chances of their own: Cowie got the better of Dadia and flashed a cross into the Dons box, but it was eventually cleared. Ryan Sargent had a good chance to shoot at goal after he drove at MacDonald, but he could only drag his shot wide.
Besuijen was the first man in red to properly test Barbour. After some tidy link up play with Sokler his effort from the edge of the box was comfortably saved.
Fraserburgh opened the scoring after 23 minutes through a real piece of individual quality. Scott Barbour came inside from the right and curled an effort with real finesse past the helpless Doohan to make it 0-1 to the visitors.
The lead didn’t last long however and just eight minutes later Aberdeen were level. Emslie drove down his left-hand side and with Donaldson backpedalling he had the space to unleash a low drive that got the better of Barbour. 1-1.
It looked like Aberdeen would take the lead before the half was out when Lobban tried his luck from distance – his shot bravely blocked by a Broch defender, but it fortuitously wound up at the feet of Sokler, who to his dismay was only able to drill a close-range effort into the side netting.
HT – Aberdeen XI 1-1 Fraserburgh
Just five minutes into the restart Aberdeen were inches away from pulling in front after Sokler rose highest inside the box to divert a header off the crossbar. The hosts dominated possession as they searched for the goal they craved but their Highland league counterparts were giving few chances away.
Up the other end Fraserburgh began to ask questions of the Dons defence and with Dadia momentarily receiving treatment off the field of play won a handful of corners, but they were unable to take advantage.
On the hour mark Fraserburgh thought they were ahead after they bundled the ball into the back of the net from close range after a defensive mix up but to the relief of the Dons defence the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside.
The pressure continued to ramp up on Aberdeen with the hosts struggling to keep a hold of the ball. Bolton was gifted possession and drilled an inviting ball across the face of the Merkland end goal, but there were no takers.
Fraserburgh blinked first and elected to bring on Ross Aitken and Aidan Sopel on for the final quarter of the tie, with Bolton and Davidson making way. Aberdeen had settled down and won a few corners of their own minutes prior, but like their counterparts they were also unable to produce anything of quality from them and the game rumbled into the final 20 minutes finely poised.
Like his strike partner Sokler, Gueye came ever so close to getting a goal and his first in red, but his close-range header was stopped on the line. There were claims that the ball had potentially snuck over the line, but referee Duncan Nicholson waved play on.
With ten minutes to play Fraserburgh pulled ahead. A ball through the middle caught out the Dons defence and with Doohan in no man’s land Sargent’s effort came off the post before falling back to the feet of the attacker to prod over the line.
Following the goal Under 18’s captain Alfie Stewart and left back Brendan Hamilton were introduced, with Dadia and Besuijen making way.
Stewart’s impact was immediate, his first contribution was enough to pull the Dons level with the midfielder dancing through a sea of black and white jerseys before applying a smart finish from inside the box. Fraserburgh’s lead was short lived, and Aberdeen were level just two minutes after going behind for a second time.
Stewart continued to look a clever introduction and he teed up Marshall on the angle who pushed a shot goal bound from inside the box, but it looked to come off the bar and bounce out of danger as Aberdeen pushed for a winner in the 90. In the final minute of regulation time Emslie saw his shot saved before Fraserburgh raced up the other end to try and get a winner of their own.
There were to be no more chances and the tie headed straight to penalty kicks at the RDS end for a place in the second round.
Ross Doohan was the star man for the Dons in the shootout and did incredibly well to make two strong saves, both diving low to his left to deny the ‘Broch. Gueye suffered the disappointment of putting his spot kick over the bar, but Aberdeen recovered well and won the shootout through a well-placed penalty from Marshall that saw them through to the next round.
Aberdeen Teamsheet Doohan
80), Habib Guèye
.Unused Subs: Harvey, Watson, McKenzie, Vitols.
Barbour, Davidson (Aitken 70), Cowie, Simpson, Young, Beagrie, West (Butcher 78), Sargent, Barbour (Wood 90), Buchan, Bolton (Sopel 70)
Unused Subs: Flynn, Laird, Hawkins, Robertson, Kelly
Venue: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
Referee: Duncan Nicolson