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St Mirren 1 Aberdeen 4: Back in top form

CRAIG Brown may barely get through lunch this afternoon before Aberdeen are nudged out of a three-way share of the lead at the top of the SPL, but the manner in which his side got there is likely to stay longer in the mind.

Aberdeen's Niall McGinn picks up the ball as Kenny McLean of St Mirren goes down Photograph: SNS
Aberdeen's Niall McGinn picks up the ball as Kenny McLean of St Mirren goes down Photograph: SNS

An engaging win away to St Mirren yesterday was achieved with two goals in each half and marked an immediate return to form after defeat to Ross County last weekend.

That result still rankles with Brown, but the Aberdeen manager will be encouraged that his players managed to put it behind them to continue in a vein which has seen them lose only twice in the league this season.

Their command of the game was rarely interrupted by the hosts, although when it was, St Mirren made sure the Pittodrie side knew about it.

Ryan Fraser has caught the eye with his performances this season but that has usually led the Aberdeen winger to be caught by the odd unfair tackle too, and his substitution after 64 minutes followed a thumping challenge from St Mirren's Marc McAusland.

The teenager is now a doubt to face Celtic next week, but he received little sympathy from St Mirren supporters, many of whom had jeered his every touch. The sound of the Aberdeen winger demanding possession anyway suggests he will not be disquieted by any crowd noise.

"I was slightly disappointed to hear the fans booing him because the wee guy never feigns injury. If there is an honest player then it is Ryan Fraser," Brown said.

Jonny Hayes had already opened the scoring with a low volley after 10 minutes by the time Fraser was able to offer a reply to his detractors. His shot was deflected to the feet of Niall McGinn who was also denied a timely block.

However, the latter doubled his side's lead just before half-time when the pair combined again. Fraser carried the ball across the penalty area before delivering it to the feet of the Aberdeen striker, who applied a powerful finish high past Craig Samson.

McGinn has now scored in each of Aberdeen's last seven league matches, but he would be made to compete for prominence yesterday as his side belatedly burnished their win.

Scott Vernon squared a pass to Chris Clark after 86 minutes, and the midfielder forced the ball under Samson. Two minutes later, his moment was stolen by Mark Reynolds, the defender striding forward to send a long-range drive into the net via a rather generous deflection. The presence of the centre-half so far up the pitch was an indication of how empowered this Aberdeen side has been by their form, but they were encouraged by St Mirren's shortcomings, too.

The Paisley side have now lost their last five league matches – a run interrupted only by a League Cup quarter-final win over Aberdeen that required penalties – and their performance yesterday was unappealing.

While Aberdeen's display was punctuated by goal celebrations, St Mirren players were left to throw their hands in the air to react to a series of wayward passes. The most notable came from the player who should have been the least susceptible, with Kenny McLean chipping Lee Mair rather than returning a pass early on, while Jon Robertson was also guilty of directing a pass straight out of play during the second half.

Steven Thompson, who had seen a header tipped on to the bar in the first half, finally provided an assured touch when he scored with a minute to go, but he dismissed the strike as his side are now just four points ahead of Dundee. "The bottom line is you have to defend better, pure and simple," said St Mirren manager Danny Lennon.

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