Aberdeen allowed themselves to be drawn into St Mirren’s style of play at Paisley last night.
The Dons’ three match winning run came to a halt in subdued fashion as they struggled to impose themselves against Danny Lennon’s struggling Buddies, who were looking for their first win of the season.
There was little of the stylish, inventive play which Derek McInnes’ side produced in their League Cup win at Falkirk as a hard working Buddies team fought for every ball, but Aberdeen dug deep to claim a draw with a late leveller from Peter Pawlett after Steven Thompson had put the home side ahead.
McInnes made two changes to the side which beat Falkirk 5-0 in the League Cup. Andy Considine was restored to the starting line-up along with attacker Scott Vernon, who scored a hat-trick against the Bairns. Nicky Low and Clark Robertson were the players who dropped to the bench.
Vernon joined Calvin Zola in a two-pronged frontline, while last season’s leading scorer Niall McGinn was also on the bench following his recovery from a bruised foot.
Buddies manager Danny Lennon handed former Don Lee Mair his first start of the season but there was no place in the starting 11 for Gary Harkins and Gary Teale.
St Mirren, fighting to save their manager’s job, started aggressively and at a frantic pace, but there was little in the way of football from the home side with their route one approach to Steven Thompson failing to trouble Jamie Langfield in the Aberdeen goal.
Aberdeen, in contrast, showed what effect the confidence of a few wins can do as they played with width and pace down the flanks, with Cammy Smith in particular enjoying success down the right.
But for all their attempts to get the ball down and play, the Dons did not test home goalkeeper Christopher Dilo, either, and the first real chance of the match fell to the home side as Paul McGowan saw his low drive saved by Langfield after Michael Hector had carelessly misplaced a pass out of defence.
The scrappy nature of the game made for frustrating viewing and, with tempers beginning to fray, John McGinn was booked before Zola was lectured by referee Calum Murray for shoving Mair to the deck after the Buddies defender had stood on his foot.
The Dons attacker then earned a booking for persistent fouling following a challenge with Mair.
It was hard not to feel sympathy for the former Burton Albion man, who was given very little protection by the officials.
McInnes had clearly seen enough, though, and he changed his system at the break, withdrawing Vernon for Low and reverting back to the 4-2-3-1 formation which has served him so well in recent games.
The change looked to have the desired effect with Aberdeen showing a fluency and poise which had been absent for much of the first half, but with the Dons pushing for the opener they were caught.
John McGinn’s curling ball into the box was flicked on by McGowan to Thompson, who muscled his way in among the visiting defenders before shooting low past Langfield.
The Buddies supporters were jubilant as they dared to dream of a first win of the season but Aberdeen’s response was strong with Jonny Hayes forcing Dilo into his first save of the game from a 25-yard free kick.
With Zola toiling on what was a difficult night for him, Josh Magennis was sent on for the final half-hour in the hope of offering more pace in the final third.
Magennis was joined in the final third by Hayes and Smith, who were also pushed further forward by the Aberdeen manager.
The pressure was building towards the Buddies goal as the home side dropped deeper to combat the waves of Dons attacks, with Pawlett’s pace down the left becoming increasingly influential.
Niall McGinn was sent on in the final 15 minutes for Smith. The Northern Irish international almost did the trick too as Magennis sent him clear of goal, only for the attacker to hit the post. The Buddies defence scrambled the ball away for a corner but the Dons were not to be denied their equaliser and from Hayes’ corner, the ball broke to Pawlett who drove his shot through a crowded penalty area.