Aberdeen overcame a stubborn St Johnstone and the dreaded Pittodrie pitch to move level with Rangers in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.
For half an hour the Dons and Saints looked certainties to play out a goalless draw but, by the time the final whistle blew, Aberdeen had clicked into gear and overwhelmed the Saints with their pace, power and finishing.
The pitch was rutted and bumpy while the tempo in the opening 30 minutes was flat. With the ball spending more time in the air than on the ground, entertaining football was in short supply.
Wingers Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Stewart found the pitch particularly tough although the two did link-up early but Stewart’s low low drive was blocked.
The only other moment of note in the opening exchanges was a May lay-off to Ryan Christie which ended with the on-loan Celtic midfielder curling a shot just wide.
Saints’ best hope of getting a goal appeared to be a set-piece but it was from one of their own free-kick opportunities that they found themselves a goal behind in the 34th minute.
A Liam Craig delivery was cleared and a mini-game of head tennis ensued between Stewart and Mackay-Steven before the latter sent Christie clear on the halfway line.
Christie took the ball past Saints keeper Alan Mannus before firing past two Saints de- fenders on the goalline.
From that moment, fans were treated to a game transformed and it was Aberdeen who found the extra gears to put the game beyond Tommy Wright’s men.
No sooner had Christie celebrated his opener did the chance of a second come his way but he could not convert and Saints scrambled the ball clear.
It only delayed the inevitable, however, as Christie’s perfectly weighted pass sent Stevie May clear and he coolly fired past Mannus to double his side’s lead.
Saints boss Wright made a double substitution at the break but it was the Dons who extended their lead five minutes into the second half as Stewart knocked the ball over the line following Shay Logan’s diving header from Andy Considine’s cross.
St Johnstone’s day went from bad to worse in the 54th minute when Alston, who only came on at the break, was forced off with what appeared a serious ankle injury.
Trailing by three goals and having used all three substitutes, Saints were resigned to their fate and the Dons really should have added to their tally.
Logan saw a header tipped over the bar and Considine had a shot saved as the home team piled the pressure on. But they were left to rue a lack of concentration as Saints pulled a goal back 22 minutes from time.
Aberdeen fell asleep as Saints took a quick corner and from Craig’s delivery, substitute Matty Willock’s header deflected off May and past the helpless Joe Lewis, who had been a spectator on his return to first-team action.
The Dons were in no mood to let their lead slip though and they ended the visitors’ hopes of getting back into the game when they added a fourth through Stewart who ran on to May’s lay-off before beating Mannus with a half-volley from the edge of the box.
ABERDEEN (4-2-3-1) – Lewis 6, Logan 6, Considine 6, O’Connor 6, McKenna 6 (Reynolds 66), Shinnie 7, McLean 6, Christie 7, Mackay-Steven 6 (Ball 77), Stewart 6, May 7 (Rooney 86). Unused subs: Woodman, Arnason, Wright, Maynard.
ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) – Mannus 5, Tanser 5, Shaughnessy 5, Anderson 5, Millar 4 (Willock 46), Davidson 4 (Alston 46 (Foster 54)), Wotherspoon 5, Kerr 5, Johnstone 5, Kane 5, Craig 6. Unused subs: Hurst, MacLean, McClean, Gordon.
Referee – Bobby Madden.
Attendance – 14,161.
Man of the match – Stevie May.