McGinn and tonic

ABERDEEN 3 DUNDEE 0: Winger bags a brace as Pit­to­drie side leapfrog Rangers to go sec­ond

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - ABERDEEN DUNDEE MATTHEW LINDSAY 3 0

THE race to win the Lad­brokes Premier­ship this sea­son may have been about as exciting as the lat­est update on the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions as run­away lead­ers Celtic have steam­rolled all be­fore them.

The same, how­ever, can­not be said of the tus­sle be­tween Aberdeen and Rangers to fin­ish best of the rest. The bat­tle for sec­ond has been com­pelling and it took a fur­ther in­trigu­ing twist last night as the Pit­to­drie club jumped above their Ibrox ri­vals with an as­sured win.

Ryan Jack, their cap­tain and cen­tral mid­fielder, put the home team in front after half an hour with his first goal in nearly two years and a sub­lime strike by Niall McGinn just be­fore half-time ef­fec­tively killed off the vis­i­tors.

McGinn, who was a richly-de­served win­ner of the man of the match award, net­ted for the fourth time in six days and the 11th time in the 2016/17 cam­paign in the sec­ond half be­fore leav­ing the field to warm ap­plause from a sat­is­fied home sup­port.

Derek McInnes’ side have now played the same num­ber of games as Mark Warburton’s team and hold the slight­est of ad­van­tages, a sin­gle point, over them.

That sit­u­a­tion may, of course, change for the umpteenth time this sea­son if Rangers can over­come Mother­well at Fir Park early this af­ter­noon. But on this sort of im­pres­sive form their ri­vals, who have won their last five out­ings after field­ing ex­actly the same team, will not sur­ren­der the plac­ing they have recorded in the last two cam­paigns tamely.

Kevin Holt and Faissal El Bakhtaoui were omit­ted from the Dundee side in the wake of the em­bar­rass­ing Wil­liam Hill Scot­tish Cup de­feat to sec­ond-tier strug­glers St. Mir­ren at Dens Park last week­end. Nick Ross and Kevin Gomis came in. James Vin­cent was un­avail­able as his wife had given birth to a baby daugh­ter ear­lier in the day.

Paul Hart­ley’s men had the chance, for a day or so, to leapfrog Partick This­tle and Ross County in the ta­ble and move into the top six with an away vic­tory and set about achiev­ing that with pur­pose. Mar­cus Haber forced a save from Joe Lewis in the fifth minute and Paul McGowan struck the cross­bar with an au­da­cious at­tempt from fully 25 yards out shortly af­ter­wards. But their hosts had soon as­sumed con­trol.

Jonny Hayes, the Aberdeen winger who has been in­ter­est­ing Cardiff City dur­ing this trans­fer win­dow, whipped a low cross into the Dundee penalty box in the 16th minute which re­bounded off the post.

Just two min­utes later McGinn, who is back to his very best after mak­ing a sub­dued start to the sea­son and is mulling over the of­fer of a new con­tract after be­ing linked with Hearts, forced a one-handed save from Scott Bain. The winger also had a dip­ping free-kick tipped over by the keeper.

The North­ern Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­al­ist’s trick­ery on the left flank led to the open­ing goal. He turned the hap­less Nick Ross in­side out, sup­ply­ing Jack with a per­fectly weighted de­liv­ery. His team-mate was sur­rounded by dark blue shirts, but rose well and nod­ded in.

He added the sec­ond him­self after Ash Tay­lor had headed a long Shay Lo­gan hoof up­field down to him. He con­trolled the ball on his right knee, swiv­elled and un­leashed a left-foot vol­ley which sailed past Bain and went in off the in­side of the right post. There may not be a bet­ter goal scored at Pit­to­drie this sea­son.

Aberdeen con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate in the sec­ond half and Dundee had Bain to thank for keep­ing the score­line re­spectable. He de­nied first Graeme Shin­nie and then Adam Rooney as his side was over­run.

Dundee’s frus­tra­tion at how the game was go­ing was ob­vi­ous in the 64th minute when Julen Etx­abe­guren scythed down McGinn. The of­fend­ing player was rightly booked by ref­eree Kevin Clancy for the bla­tant foul and was re­placed by El Bakhtaoui soon af­ter­wards.

Aberdeen bagged their third goal with 10 min­utes re­main­ing when Hayes teed up McGinn for a header which Bain was un­able to keep out. The provider went off two min­utes later and was re­placed by Ryan Chrstie.

He could have been for­given for feel­ing ner­vous as he made his debut on loan from Celtic after his un­for­tu­nate Twit­ter con­tro­versy dur­ing the week, but there was no an­i­mos­ity di­rected to­wards him on a night when there was, despite the news that James Mad­di­son wouldn’t be re­turn­ing from Nor­wich on loan, plenty to cheer for those of an Aberdeen per­sua­sion.

AT THE DOU­BLE: Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn scores the first of his brace last night.

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