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St Johnstone 0 Aberdeen 2: Illustrious company

Sir Alex Ferguson was probably halfway through a mouthful of one of Perth's finest hospitality lunches when he had to also digest the unsettling news that his beloved Manchester United had lost their second home game in four days.

Niall McGinn's goal must have impressed the watching Sir Alex Ferguson	  					   Photograph: SNS
Niall McGinn's goal must have impressed the watching Sir Alex Ferguson Photograph: SNS

Retirement, of course, means that events at Old Trafford are no longer his responsibility; instead his attention yesterday was arrested by two other former clubs.

Ferguson was ostensibly in town to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a hat-trick scored against Rangers for St Johnstone, but it was really the latest stop of a whirlwind tour to promote his new book. This brief hiatus allowed him to take in a comfortable Aberdeen victory capped by a goal worthy of any of his many illustrious former charges.

That strike was made possible by a wonderful swerving throw-out by Jamie Langfield, angled into the path of Niall McGinn. The Northern Irishman strolled down the wing, jinked inside and unleashed a ferocious curler beyond Alan Mannus' outstretched arm and into the top-right corner of the goal. It was enough to make sure of the spoils in a battling encounter, with Peter Pawlett having drawn first blood for Aberdeen early in the match.

"The pitch was fiery," said Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes. "The two bits of quality for the goals were outstanding, two terrific goals. But that didn't win the game. It was the second balls, the headers, the individual battles. Doing all the basics that needed to be done. I think we were worthy winners."

McGinn's magic was the match's talking point, though Rory Fallon ran him a close second. He replaced Nigel Hasselbaink with 20 minutes to go and his side striving for parity. Forty seconds later he was heading back down the tunnel, having elbowed Michael Hector. His side rarely threatened once reduced to 10 men.

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright revealed he had not spoken to the midfielder after the game. "I think he's better staying out of my way," he said. "I haven't seen it again, but he hasn't come to me saying he didn't do it, so I take it from that the referee made the right decision. He was sent on to give us aggression but he channelled it in the wrong way."

Aberdeen were on top even before the opener. Good closing down by Pawlett saw the ball ricochet to Scott Vernon, who played a first-time ball back. Pawlett's first touch took him a little wider than he would have liked, though, and he could only drag his shot past Jamie Langfield's right-hand post.

But Aberdeen's high pressing was to pay off minutes later, after Barry Robson won the ball in the St Johnstone half. Attack suddenly outnumbered defence and when Robson's pass stuck to Vernon - whose hold-up play was exemplary - he laid the ball off delicately for Pawlett, who took it in his stride and drilled a low shot to Mannus' left and just inside the post.

The visitors continued to create opportunities. When the ball was given away by Chris Millar in midfield, McGinn found Vernon, whose curling shot drifting beyond the far-right corner.

Too often St Johnstone resorted to hefting ugly long balls up to Stevie May, who was cleverly marshalled by the visiting defence, the excellent Russell Anderson and Mark Reynolds stepping up to intercept or dropping back to hoof clear when needed.

May created the hosts' only real chance but his shot was brilliantly saved by Langfield, who pushed the ball away for a corner with a firm hand. Gwion Edwards entered the fray not long after the interval as something of a toothless menace; one snapshot turn inside the box bought him space but he snatched at the shot and Langfield was comfortable in making the save.

At the other end, McGinn's quickness of turn caused the hosts problems throughout; the ball seemed to be attached to him by an elastic string.

The sending-off, though, had turned the denouement into a formality. Hector stormed forward again, into space provided by Robson's smart sideways ball. "Shoot!" the visiting fans pleaded. His low, fizzing effort was well saved by Mannus, though. Aberdeen - aided by the introduction of Willo Flood - had total control, keeping the ball well and strangling any of the hosts' flagging creativity.

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