It was far from pretty. In fact it felt like a test of endurance at times, but Aberdeen dug deep to pick up their first away win of the season at Livingston.
The Dons were far from their best but their willingness to roll their sleeves up and grind it out for the cause was a source of great satisfaction to manager Derek McInnes.
He said: “We came here to do a job. We knew what to expect and to fight fire with fire.
“There’s a reason Livi don’t lose too many here.
“We knew we would have to stand up to periods of pressure at times and thankfully a combination of good defending and two bits of quality from Andy Considine’s movement to Niall McGinn’s pass settled the game.
“The pitch was particularly awful, particularly when it was dry like it was.
“It’s not how I want my team to play but I want to win and I can take pleasure from seeing us take three points. There’s a reason teams don’t win here and we’ve managed to do that on a couple of occasions here.
“Livingston are as good as any at turning the ball over and slitting your throat.
“We tried to take that element out by playing in the wide areas.
“We didn’t quite bring the quality often enough in the final third but there are different ways of winning.”
Neither goalkeeper was tested in the early stages, largely due to lack of quality in the final third at both ends.
But the game came to life when the home side spurned two great chances in the space of five minutes.
The first came when a Steven Lawless flick released Scott Robinson in the box but Joe Lewis did well to block the striker’s close range effort.
The second came after a through ball sent Chris Erskine clear on goal but, with the Aberdeen goalkeeper to beat, the Livi winger curled his effort over the crossbar.
They came to rue those missed chances as the Dons went up the pitch and scored with their first effort on target.
It came just before the half-hour mark from a corner with Andy Considine striding forward to side-foot Ryan Hedges’ delivery past Ross Stewart from eight yards. It was a fine volleyed finish from the defender but atrocious marking from Livi.
Livi kept the pressure on the visitors and their perseverance should have paid dividends in the closing seconds of the first half when Considine’s under-hit pass to Mikey Devlin was intercepted by Marvin Bartley.
The Livi Lions captain played the ball across goal to Erskine but from six yards out his fresh-air swipe meant a great chance to equalise was squandered.
Aberdeen may have held the interval lead but the travelling support grew increasingly frustrated at their side’s failure to impose themselves on the game in the second half.
Patience wore thin at the sight of the umpteenth long ball which ran through to Livingston goalkeeper Stewart.
Players willing to come for the ball when a defender was in possession were in short supply and the unrest grew in the second half as the Dons’ struggle in the West Lothian heat continued.
Livingston manager Gary Holt made all his changes within 20 minutes of the second half in an attempt to find an equaliser.
And with Aberdeen showing little sign of adding to their lead the pressure built steadily.
With 15 minutes remaining Lewis failed to deal with a cross into the box and the ball broke to Jon Gurthie who struck the woodwork before the Dons scrambled it away to safety.
Livi continued to press for an equaliser and they were caught by a late sucker-punch as the Dons broke away to secure the win in stoppage time.
Substitute Sam Cosgrove was tripped in the box as the Dons broke by Livi defender Nicky Devlin and referee Nick Walsh had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The big forward sent Stewart the wrong way with his spot kick to secure an important if untidy win for the Dons.
Holt: How did that happen?
Livingston took some plaudits but they meant nothing to manager Gary Holt after watching his side somehow lose.
Following a fine display at Rangers with 10 men in a 3-1 defeat, Livi came up short again – despite dominating Aberdeen for long periods.
He may be proud of his players but Holt believes lessons have to be learned.
He said: “We were brilliant, had a right good go, but it’s hard as I have to be critical. Aberdeen defended their box better than we did. We’ve limited them to very little but they have taken their chances while we haven’t. We had the desire and the effort and we’ll play a lot worse and win. I can’t fault the players but we have to learn from it as I can’t be coming in saying it’s a sore one every week.”
Holt believes the poor defending for Andy Considine’s opener was the key moment in the game.
He said: “As a player I knew if I didn’t pick up my man and he scored it was my fault and that’s what happened. It was a game of fine lines and when we hit the crossbar and the ball came down off the post I turned to my staff and said it’s not our day.”
Supporter’s view: Sifting injury debris to find some serendipity
By Chris Crighton
When Derek McInnes discovered that he would spend at least the next month with neither of his major summer signings anchoring his midfield, he will have looked at the fixture list and winced.
With an away League Cup quarter-final and Premiership matches against all of the erstwhile top three coming before Halloween, this was no time to be without the team’s foundation. So he will be delighted to get some credit in the bank before embarking upon that run of games, even if the performance may not have provided the comfort to go along with the points. A win is a win, but this was one of those matches where the bare scoreline serves as a poor reflection.
It was one of contradictions. The enforced changes ought to have made Aberdeen’s midfield more attacking than usual.
But while it contributed a rare clean sheet, it was unable to create anything which forced Ross Stewart into a save.
It was an uncommonly inexperienced group, yet it showed the knowhow – admittedly with the assistance of the profligate home side – to preserve its lead for more than an hour.
Until such time as either Craig Bryson or Stephen Gleeson returns to match fitness, McInnes will be short of other options.
In pursuit of solidity, it may be that Zak Vyner plays much of the next month in central midfield.
But if he takes the bolder approach of sticking with this trio, average age below 21, they will be much the stronger for the opportunity.
Lewis Ferguson, Dean Campbell and Jon Gallagher are fine footballers in their own right but each has sometimes suffered from being given work not in keeping with his skill set in order to complement colleagues.
Oddly, McInnes might have been forced into a blend which actually best suits all three.