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Low flying after he comes in under the radar

IT would take Nicky Low just a little under two minutes to raise his profile at Pittodrie yesterday.

Nicky Low made his first league start of the season for Aberdeen and scored with a free-kick after just two minutes
Nicky Low made his first league start of the season for Aberdeen and scored with a free-kick after just two minutes

That might have been long enough for some inside the ground to find one on the internet too, the midfielder being named in an Aberdeen starting XI in a league match for the first time this season to make just his 13th appearance for the club. A further statistic was identified quickly as well, when the youngster scored his first senior goal.

The diminutive 21-year-old lined up before kick-off looking every inch like an excitable mascot. He grew a good deal more two minutes into the match with Ross County when he steered a delightful free-kick into the net from some 25 yards. It would prove to be the only goal of an afternoon which required no more from the home side and that allowed Low's big moment great significance.

He would be sat down afterwards and asked to explain himself, but had found himself in a place of unexpected prominence already. Peter Pawlett had been fouled outside the County penalty area and Low approached the scene tentatively and with little intention of putting anything out of place. Niall McGinn - the player Aberdeen usually turn to at a set-piece - then wandered off to leave his young colleague to it.

It was as much a surprise to Low as the sight of his strike rippling the net a few seconds later. "I thought Niall was about to take it then he walked away and I was the only one there," said the midfielder, who has previously spent time on loan at Forfar Athletic and Alloa Athletic. "So, I just took the free-kick and it worked and I'm delighted to get my first goal for the club. It was my first league start this season and I was pleased we bounced back from the Boxing Day defeat by Motherwell to take the three points we needed."

This has been a good season to be a young player in Scottish football and Low put his signature on a victory while more experienced players were left to doodle quietly on the sidelines. Aberdeen had opted to rest captain Russell Anderson and Barry Robson, the former Scotland midfielder, with a view to a New Year's Day derby with Dundee United at Tannadice.

County have spent much of this campaign with their eyes closed - the Highland side still adrift in the SPFL Premiership's relegation play-off spot and without a league win since October. That was against Aberdeen in Dingwall and was a feat they could not emulate at Pittodrie yesterday; the visitors instead becoming so vexed by the pace of Pawlett that Marc Klok got himself in a fankle and tripped the Aberdeen forward in the box. Scott Vernon's spot-kick would be saved by Michael Fraser, though.

The County goalkeeper was not the only one who had to fend off the advances of Aberdeen, with Scott Boyd and Brian McLean visibly troubled by the contrasting threats of Pawlett and Vernon. Steven Saunders also had his hands full trying to keep in touch with McGinn on the left.

One of the Northern Irishman's crosses was headed against a post by Boyd and the County defender was later unnerved by a run from Joe Shaughnessy. He was part of an Aberdeen defence which was largely untroubled but which is still in a need of repair. "Michael Hector is returning to Reading after his loan spell, Andrew Considine will be out for a while with a torn calf muscle and Clark Robertson is a long-term injury worry," said Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager. "We'll look first at the defence for a new player [in January transfer window]."

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