A second-half goal from Lawrence Shankland was enough to give a youthful Aberdeen a 1-0 victory against Peterhead at Balmoor today.
There was plenty of perspiration but little in the way of inspiration as the young Dons overcame last season’s League 2 champions in front of a 1,087-strong crowd.
It was a worthwhile exercise for the Reds, although the Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes may have hoped more of his younger players would have seized the opportunity of a rare start ahead of this week’s Europa League trip to Latvia.
The Dons have again been linked with a move for former Blackburn Rovers and Dundee United forward David Goodwillie and it is easy to see why McInnes is keen to bolster his attacking options as his side lacked a cutting edge to enjoy a more comfortable afternoon against the Blue Toon, who were playing in their first pre-season friendly ahead of the new campaign.
There were 11 changes from the Dons team which defeated Daugava Riga 5-0 on Thursday, with McInnes giving some of his fringe players the opportunity to impress. New signings Ash Taylor and goalkeeper Scott Brown were both named in the starting XI, while Andy Considine, Joe Shaughnessy, Declan McManus and Shankland were also drafted in.
New signings Reece Donaldson and Jamie Stevenson were included in the Blue Toon line-up, while last season’s leading scorer Rory McAllister and former Don Jordon Brown started on the bench.
Stevenson could have made a dream start to his Peterhead career when the ball broke to him on the edge of the area within three minutes of the start but the midfielder dragged his shot woefully wide.
The young Dons began to control possession but struggled to find the decisive pass in the final third.
There was a worrying moment for the visitors when midfielder Nicky Low required treatment in the 19th minute following a hefty challenge from Ross Smith but he managed to continue.
Craig Murray, playing at left back, curled an effort just wide two minutes later before the visitors should have taken the lead when a Low free kick found its way through to the unmarked Considine but the defender’s effort was too close to Peterhead stopper Graeme Smith.
Peterhead could have capitalised on a careless mistake by central defender Taylor but Stevenson was again unable to find the target.
The visitors continued to look the more likely and almost made the breakthrough when Craig Storrie found Murray at the back post but the Dons defender headed wide.
Storrie stung the palms of Smith and Considine sliced a volley wide as a drab and goalless half came to an end.
The game finally sparked to life in the 51st minute when Stevenson tried to lob Brown from well inside his own half. The midfielder’s sweetly struck shot deceived the Dons goalkeeper but flew wide of the target.
Following that rare moment of excitement, the hosts went close again after 56 minutes when McAllister latched on to a searching Scott Ross diagonal pass and the Peterhead forward’s left-foot volley dipped past the post with Brown beaten.
The Dons were in need of a lift and manager McInnes brought on attacking midfielder Scott Wright, who made his competitive debut against Daugava Riga, for Craig Storrie on the hour mark.
The change had the desired effect as the Dons took the lead a minute later. It was not the prettiest of goals as Shankland’s scuffed shot from Smith’s cutback squirmed into the corner of the net.
The goal eased the Aberdeen nerves and they became more expansive. They almost added a second when Wright crossed for Shankland. However, the forward nodded wide before the Dons had half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away when defender Shaughnessy tumbled in the box under pressure from McCann.