THE fine line between success and failure has rarely been more apparent than it was here in Paisley.

Even repeated freeze frames were unable to isolate precisely whether Eric Djemba-Djemba's tackle caught Peter Pawlett on the line or just outside the penalty area, but what was undeniable was that the challenge from the veteran Cameroon international was reckless and ultimately cost St Mirren this match.

That meant the benefit of the doubt went to Derek McInnes' high-flying Aberdeen side, with Adam Rooney wrong-footing Marian Kello with the penalty which secured their 11th win from their last 14 matches, and cut their arrears on Celtic at the top of the SPFL Premiership to 18 points. The fresh uncertainty all belonged to St Mirren, who have now lost seven of their last nine matches, with the future of manager Danny Lennon beyond this summer, when his current contract is due to expire, remaining unclear.

Loading article content

"The beginning of the tackle was outside," insisted Djemba the 32-year-old veteran formerly of Manchester United and Aston Villa, who even more mystifyingly didn't see a second yellow for the incident.

"I am little bit disappointed because I am experienced and normally I should not tackle there but I was thinking he would shoot. I said sorry in the dressing room but they said to me 'that's football'. I said to the referee it was outside the box at the time and if it's a penalty it is a red card because I already had a yellow."

This was an erratic performance from Calum Murray and his officials all right but it was hard not to sympathise with him when it came to the penalty award at least. Even the respective representatives of the coaching staffs seemed unsure about it afterwards.

"There is a debate whether it was inside the box or outside the box," Lennon said. "It was a big call for Calum and it feels like a decision which has gone against us again. But I can't condone an experienced player like Eric making a challenge like that. You have to be 99% sure that you are going to take some bit off the ball when you go to ground like that."

Tony Docherty, deputising for Derek McInnes, who hot-footed it post-match to check out William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final opponents Dumbarton at home to Falkirk, was delighted that his side had displayed fortitude if not exactly their finest football.

On the penalty, he said: "I have seen it again and I think it was on the line and a decent call from the referee. "But I can understand Danny's viewpoint. He [Djemba-Djemba] forced the referee to make a decision.

"Adam has certainly brought something to us, he is clinical. But with the platform we have behind us with the back four and Jamie Langfield it gives us the chance to win games."

McInnes, who is a native of Paisley, had been forced into two changes from the side which shocked Celtic at Parkhead.

Barry Robson missed the trip with a thigh problem, while Johnny Hayes experienced back spasms on the bus journey down and was unable to participate, but this was a vote of confidence in Aberdeen's squad, with a couple of able deputies being drafted in the form of Nicky Low and Joe Shaughnessy. Lennon reacted to Marc McAusland's suspension by drafting Jim Goodwin and Conor Newton as auxiliary defenders.

With St Mirren Park a glorified wind tunnel and a sticky pitch proving another handicap, spectacle was at a minimum as the Paisley side nullified creative types such as Pawlett and Niall McGinn.

A fine challenge from Darren McGregor thwarted one Pawlett burst in the first half but we were into the second before there was a chance worthy of the name. St Mirren, with the wind now, were inches away from the opener when Steven Thompson's finish flew inches beyond the post.

But Aberdeen never looked like they had settled for a point either. Andrew Considine forced a smart save from Kello with a header from Low's cross, then the Slovakian had to look sharp with another save from Low.

Eventually Djemba-Djemba's impetuosity and Rooney's eye for the target produced the game's only goal, and while the Irishman might have had his fourth in four games late on, equally important was the late save from Langfield - as he closes in on a century of career shut-outs - from Aberdeen old boy Gregg Wylde.