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Chants taken with visiting support in splendid voice

THERE is something sonically alluring about the "There's only one Peter Pawlett" chant.

Scott Vernon of Aberdeen beats the home side's Frazer Wright to the ball
Scott Vernon of Aberdeen beats the home side's Frazer Wright to the ball

It is a splendid name, if one better suited to the pleasant world of nursery rhymes and JK Rowling novels than the thick, bloody heart of Scottish football. It echoed out noisily on Saturday, after the Aberdeen forward had put his side ahead.

It is a chant, you feel, which would have warmed the watching Sir Alex Ferguson. For all that he was here at the behest of St Johnstone - to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a hat trick against Rangers - it was with his other former club that he first bestrode the world stage, and with which he is better identified.

His Aberdeen ran out comfortable winners on Saturday, a victory achieved with even more ease thanks to the second-half idiocy of Rory Fallon. He was brought on to give his side more aggression - according to Tommy Wright afterwards - and he certainly took his manager's instructions to heart.

Around 40 seconds after stomping on to the pitch, an elbow connected with Michael Hector and he was traipsing straight back down the tunnel and carefully out of his manager's way. It was all a little pantomime. The former Pittodrie player had been booed by the visiting support when he was brought on; less than a minute later they sang his name with giddy gusto.

The visitors had already been in control, and were probably heading to victory anyway. But the sending-off - just as the hosts were about to launch a last-gasp bid for parity -allowed Barry Robson and substitute Willo Flood to effectively skip through central midfield with all the carefree breeze of a couple of 1950s sweethearts on Atlantic City pier. "It took the wind out of their sails," admitted Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager.

The opening exchanges were characterised by misplaced passes in dangerous defensive areas, several half-chances coalescing out of nowhere thanks to sloppy errors. St Johnstone had threatened little, and while Aberdeen were not much better, their experience in midfield and especially in central defence stifled the hosts' attack.

Pawlett's opening strike was sharp and clinical. Robson won the ball high up the pitch and the St Johnstone defence found themselves overwhelmed. Scott Vernon - who led the line cleverly throughout - laid it off for Pawlett, whose deflected shot snuck into the bottom-right corner.

For the hosts, Stevie May was his usual bothersome self, up to no good, barging and bruising around like a bitter, late-twenties has-been in a teenage mosh pit. But the canny Aberdeen defence relished the challenge, and for the most part kept the 21-year-old striker pointed away from goal, where he could only charge snorting into harmless wide areas.

May did create one chance, though, just before half-time. But his rasping shot was brilliantly saved by Jamie Langfield, a moment which Aberdeen defender Russell Anderson admitted had been a turning point. "It was crucial," Anderson said. "If they score at that point it's a different game. We restricted them to one save; I don't think he had much to do, but that save was really crucial."

Langfield also played a part in the second goal - his quick-thinking, swerving throw-out found Niall McGinn in space down the right wing. He carried the ball over the halfway line then, when he was just outside the box, cut inside and curled the ball into the top-right corner. It was a superb strike worthy of killing off any game, and especially this one.

At the other end for the visitors, Anderson was magnificent, a striding rock that May and Nigel Hasselbaink kept breaking against in vain. A career blighted by injuries is currently in the midst of a fine Indian summer, and the 35-year-old hopes his lengthy spells outside the game might allow him to extend his career beyond that of your average battered and bruised centre-half.

"It seems like a long time ago now [when he was out injured], there's been times when it's . . ." he trailed off. "I'm enjoying it now, because of months like that when you were constantly injured and not playing. It can get you down. It's nice to be back playing and winning. It helps to be in a team that is full of confidence.

"I think the players around me are playing well, [Mark] Reynolds and [Andrew] Considine and Hector all played really well today. The players in front are well drilled so that makes our job a little bit easier with the work they're putting in."

This week, though, it was surely the inspiring presence of Ferguson in the stands which provided the visitors with that extra piece of pizzazz to get them over the line. "Was he here?" asked a bemused Anderson. "I didn't realise. Well, there you go then. No. I didn't realise. Nice of him to be here, but I don't know what else to say."

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