THERE may have been six goals, but this was no spectacle.
Not that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, cared. His side dominated this William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie and might have rattled-in more than the four they did, had they not allowed themselves the luxury of momentary lapses in concentration.
McInnes was not unhappy with the loss of two goals, however, in conditions that were not conducive to the fast and fluent football we usually see from the Dons.
Nor was he over-concerned about drawing Kilmarnock at Pittodrie in the quarter-final of the competition.
“Both teams will see this as an opportunity to reach the semi-final,” he said. “It’s a tough tie but when you reach this stage of the tournament you shouldn’t expect anything other than that.
“They are impressive and very consistent. Teams strive for that kind of consistency and results have come on the back of that consistency and Steve Clarke [the Killie manager] has given them a way of playing; nice and compact with their front two, Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, carrying a goal threat.
“They don’t lose too many goals either.”
McInnes insisted the victory against United was a triumph for the players because of the difficult conditions; a poor playing surface and a strong wind sweeping across Pittodrie.
Adam Rooney’s opener in twenty minutes, heading home Gary Mackay-Stevens’s mishit effort started the rot for United and when Niall McGinn dispossessed a sloppy Craig Slater in midfield seven minutes later, he fed the former United winger whose finish from inside the area was clinical.
The pressure from the hosts was relentless as they toiled against the pace of Mackay-Steven and the guile of McGinn and Ryan Christie in midfield.
Yet, it was a lapse in concentration in the 34th minute, when Anthony O’Connor and Scott McKenna dithered at the back for the Dons, that allowed Sam Stanton a free run at goal before he despatched the ball past Freddie Woodman, the home side’s goalkeeper, on loan from Newcastle United.
Normal service was, however, resumed within the minute as Christie’s pinpoint cross from the left was despatched by the head of Kenny McLean and the cheers from the 940 travelling fans at their team’s
temporary comeback were suddenly muted.
The removal of Slater at the break – he was replaced by Paul McMullan – was unsurprising. Neither was another strike from the Reds with Mackay-Steven revelling in the service he was receiving and side-stepping Jamie Robson before hitting his second from a narrow angle in the 55th minute.
But, as the Dons sought a fifth, it was McMullan, offering a more direct and energetic approach, who narrowed the lead with twenty minutes remaining, his well-place effort from 12 yards floating past
Woodman and in to the Aberdeen goal.
McInnes is confident he can lead his men to Hampden once more, having been there four time last season in two semi-finals and two finals, the last an injury-time defeat to Celtic in the Scottish Cup,
silverware they last lifted in 1990.
“I feel we are a team who can go on and win the cup,” he said, “now that we have that experience at and familiarity with Hampden.
Remember, it took until the 93rd minute for Celtic to beat us in the final.”
The hang-dog expression of Csaba Laszlo’s, the Dundee United manager, told his story.
“If we had scored about eight minutes from the end when they cleared off the line,” he said, “it would have been an interesting finish.
“Aberdeen were better individually but we showed great spirit in the second half.”