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Aberdeen 0 St Mirren 0: Agricultural fayre as players pass up regular tactics

Rumours that the annual Aberdeenshire Farm Equipment Fair had taken place on the Pittodrie pitch the morning of this game were, of course, unfounded.

Still, asking players to display passable technique on such a pock-marked playing surface was akin to listening to Placido Domingo sing Nessun Dorma with a fistful of Kleenex stuffed in his mouth.

Jim Goodwin, the St Mirren captain, admitted that his side's game-plan to keep the ball on the ground was an abandoned notion after only 10 minutes as they realised that the glue-pot of a Pittodrie pitch was so unforgiving.

Jonny Hayes, the Aberdeen winger also surrendered his trickery to the under-foot conditions, and expressed concern that he and his team-mates have managed just three home wins this season as once more they relied too heavily on Niall McGinn, their top scorer, to find a way past the resolute Paisley defence. A place in Europe next season, he said, was essential to avoid another flop this term.

"We have got to go for that," he said. "Even though our form isn't great we have a great chance of finishing second. The players in the dressing room know they need to raise their game over the next few weeks. If we don't pick up enough points it will have been a failure of a season."

They passsed up a chance for more, and the spoils were split on a pitch that saw several fearsome challenges, which brought a total of five bookings and a needless red card for Mark Reynolds, the Aberdeen centre-back, when he couldn't avoid Kenny McLean's thundering strike a few yards from his body. John Beaton, the referee, may have forgotten the earlier booking of Reynolds before he flashed that second yellow card 15 minutes from the end.

Interestingly, the Dons produced their most attacking play in those final minutes, though a counter by the Buddies presented Esmael Goncalves, their energetic Portuguese striker, with a free shot in front of goal, blocked by Jamie Langfield protecting Aberdeen's goal.

There was a positive spin from the Paisley camp, who, despite languishing in second bottom place, homed-in on the indisputable arithmetical fact that they are only eight points off second spot.

"I think it's great for the game and for the SPL that that there's so much lying on every game," said Goodwin. "This time last year we were 37 points off second place. All right, Rangers were still kicking about then, but for us to be eight points off this season is fantastic. It's exciting that every team has something to play for. Europe is up for grabs for everyone.

"Any other season being in 11th you'd be looking over your shoulder and thinking you were fighting relegation. But we're not; we're constantly looking up because we're good enough to be higher up the table. Celtic will win it but what an achievement it would be for any of the other clubs to clinch second place.

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