Aberdeen’s lead in the race for second spot has been cut to just a point after a goal-less draw with Hibernian.
A highly-anticipated contest yielded no clear winner and does neither side any real favours in the bid to finish best of the rest.
Rangers’ 1-0 win over Kilmarnock at Ibrox mean they are just a point behind Aberdeen in third, ahead of a trip to Pittodrie on Tuesday night.
The Dons made one change from the 2-0 win over Hearts, with Mark Reynolds replacing the suspended Kenny McLean. Hibernian were unchanged from the 5-3 victory against Kilmarnock, with Steven Whittaker again starting in midfield
Prior to kick-off Aberdeen announced a pre-contract agreement with 18-year-old Hamilton Accies midfielder Lewis Ferguson, who they had been linked with earlier in the week. He is a highly rated prospect at New Douglas Park and has played 14 times this season, however he was not involved in Hamilton’s 1-0 defeat to Dundee earlier in the day.
The previous two encounters between these two sides were played in raucous atmospheres and this one started no differently. Steven Whittaker slid in MacLaren and as he shaped to shoot, Mark Reynolds clattered into him from behind. The Hibees’ joy was short-lived however, as a superb stop from Joe Lewis kept out MacLaren’s penalty and brought a tremendous roar around Pittodrie.
The pace of the game made it an excellent watch, with the Dons switching the play quickly from left to right and Hibs breaking forward at will. MacLaren missed another glorious opportunity to put them in front on 21 minutes, peeling away from Shay Logan to meet Martin Boyle’s cross at the back post but heading over from six yards.
There was a feistiness to proceedings, with John McGinn booked for clattering the lively Gary Mackay-Steven in front of the Hibs’ dugout. Shay Logan raced over to push McGinn away, as both Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty advanced from the dugout to voice their anger at referee John Beaton.
Aberdeen had their best chance to score two minutes before the interval, after Darren McGregor grappled with Sam Cosgrove 20 yards from goal and Beaton awarded a free-kick. Niall McGinn shot against the frame of the goal and Hibs panicked to clear.
The Dons started the second half in the ascendancy and had two headed chances blocked, with Efe Ambrose denying Sam Cosgrove and then McGinn clearing from Reynolds.
John McGinn tested Lewis with a shot across goal that the Aberdeen stopper parried away from danger but a lack of a final ball hurt both teams, as the second half failed to live up to the frantic nature of the first.
Florian Kamberi had a shot blocked by the feet of Lewis in the final 20 minutes but there was little else to shout about, with the Dons’ advantage in second spot down to a point.