Saturday 13 August 2016, 15.00, Pittodrie Stadium

A trip north today to see Aberdeen play Hearts in the Scottish Premiership.

Aberdeen Football Club was formed in 1903 as a result of the amalgamation of three clubs in the city.  They have never been relegated from the top division of the Scottish football league system since they were promoted in 1905.  They didn’t really feature in the hunt for major trophies until after the second world war and they had a remarkable period of success in the 1980s under the stewardship of Alex Ferguson.   They’ve won four Scottish league titles, seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups, and are the only Scottish club to have won two European trophies, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Super Cup in 1983.  Ferguson was in charge for ten of those.  They had quite a wait until their most recent trophy, the League Cup in 2013-14.

They have played their home games at Pittodrie Stadium since their inception.  It was the first all-seated and all-covered stadium in the United Kingdom, as well as the first football stadium to have dug-outs.   They are currently putting in place plans to move to a new home. The last three seasons they have finished third, second and second.  Manager Derek McInnes will be hoping to challenge again this year.  He’s bolstered his squad with the signings of goalkeepers Neil Alexander from Hearts and Joe Lewis from Fulham, midfielder Anthony O’Connor from Burton Albion and forwards Jayden Stockley from Exeter City and Miles Storey from Swindon Town.  Winger Wes Burns has joined on loan from Bristol City.

Peter Pawlett returns for the Dons after suspension and Johnny Hayes is injured.  Aberdeen had an opening day goalless draw at St Johnstone and won 2-1 at Ayr in the League Cup during the week.

My first viewing of Hearts since they lost out to Birkirkara in the Europa League.  They were a little unfortunate to lose 2-1 at home to champions Celtic on the opening day of the league and went out of the League Cup 3-2 to St Johnstone during the week.  They have signed Polish defender Krystian Nowak and still await clearance on the signing of striker Bjorn Johnsen.

There were 13,559 in attendance.

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With only a point to show between them for their opening day efforts, both sides were keen not to drop any further behind the leaders.

Aberdeen started brightly and Pawlett’s cross from the left after 3 minutes found the head of Stockley, but he headed wide of the goal.

The home side were making all the running and Shinnie had a shot from distance wide in 5 minutes before O’Connor was found from a McGinn corner completely unmarked in the box in the 7th minute, but his header drifted wide.

McGinn was involved again in 12 minutes, this time electing to go himself as he weaved away from Hearts defenders, but his shot on goal was deflected over by Souttar.

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Hearts had their first opportunity in 15 minutes when a ball into the box by Djoum was headed out only as far as Paterson, whose half volley was well enough struck, but dragged wide of the far post.

In 22 minutes, The Dons came even closer to grabbing the lead when Burns headed goalwards from a cross from the right.  His header came crashing off the bar, but the flag was up for offside anyway.

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As the half progressed, Hearts started to get a foothold in the game and had a great chance to take the lead in 34 minutes when a Nicholson free kick picked out Souttar, but his header was wide of the target when he should have done better.

Commitment was certainly evident for both sides with the game becoming more of a battle in the lead up to half time with Watt, Buaben and Rherras all picking up bookings, while Shinnie of Aberdeen joined them.

Hearts had a penalty claim turned down in the 37th minute when Watt’s chipped through ball saw Nicholson run into the box and get tackled by a sliding Logan but the referee waved away appeals.

In the last couple of minutes before the break, Logan and McGinn (from a free kick) had further efforts on the Hearts goal with Hamilton comfortably saving the former and the latter going over the bar.

The second half saw a much more even start, with Watt the first to show for Hearts’ with a shot which was blocked by Dons’ O’Connor.

Aberdeen’s McGinn and Hearts Kitchen then exchanged efforts at goal which were too high.

Although they weren’t clear cut chances, efforts at goal were happening at both ends with Rooney winning a header in 62 minutes which he nodded wide, before Watt again looked dangerous for Hearts before his shot was half blocked again by O’Connor and spun up into Lewis’ arms in 64 minutes.

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Watt set up Cowie in 68 minutes but his shot from 20 yards sailed over the Dons bar.

The home side created a good chance for Pawlett when Logan’s cross found him six yards out, but he headed wide.

Hearts sub Muirhead had two efforts in the last ten minutes which were blocked before Hearts had the chance of the game with just three minutes left.  Sammon did well to find Watt in the box and he showed good footwork to create space for himself, but off balance, he ballooned the ball over the bar.

The second half saw another three yellow cards, with Aberdeen’s Pawlett and Hearts Djoum and Rossi going in the book.

No lack of effort but both teams lacking a cutting edge.  Aberdeen bossed the possession, especially in the first half, but Hearts probably had the better chances.

Defensive midfielder O’Connor looks a find for Aberdeen while McGinn is always good on the ball.  For Hearts, Souttar was solid at the back and Watt looks like he will be a big contributor once he is up to full fitness.

Full Time:  Aberdeen 0 Hearts 0

Admission:  £25

Aberdeen: 1 Joe Lewis, 2 Shay Logan, 3 Graeme Shinnie, 5 Ash Taylor, 6 Mark Reynolds, 8 Wes Burns (McLean, 56), 10 Niall McGinn, 15 Anthony O’Connor, 16 Peter Pawlett (Storey, 72), 17 Jayden Stockley (Rooney, 56), 22 Ryan Jack. Subs: 25 Neil Alexander, 4 Andrew Considine, 7 Kenny McLean, 9 Adam Rooney, 19 Craig Storie, 26 Scott Wright, 39 Miles Storey.

Hearts: 1 Jack Hamilton, 2 Callum Paterson, 14 John Souttar, 4 Igor Rossi, 3 Faycal Rherras (Smith, 46), 10 Arnaud Djoum, 8 Prince Buaben (Kitchen, 46), 15 Don Cowie, 11 Sam Nicholson (Muirhead, 71), 32 Tony Watt, 18 Conor Sammon. Subs13 Viktor Noring, 5 Alim Ozturk, 6 Perry Kitchen, 19 Krystian Nowak, 23 Robbie Muirhead, 24 Liam Smith, 26 Dario Zanatta.

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Programme: £3

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