Aberdeen were held to a 1-1 draw by a gritty Hamilton Accies under the lights at New Douglas Park.
Ryan Hedges’ seventh goal of the season handed the Dons a first-half lead, cancelled out just after the break by Marios Ogkmpoe’s header.
It means the gap between the Dons and second-placed Celtic is at three points, with the champions having a game in hand.
A congested and at time frenetic affair, Accies more than merited their point, offering them a glimmer of hope in getting away from the foot of the Premiership.
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) November 25, 2020
Aberdeen had plenty of possession and slung enough crosses into the box, however Hedges was the only man to find a way through.
They looked a far more solid outfit than the one played through by Rangers in the 4-0 defeat at the weekend, however their attacking forays yielded nothing more than a solitary return.
Dean Campbell and Curtis Main were handed starts by Derek McInnes, with the latter finding the net when the Dons visited New Douglas Park last season.
Campbell’s presence in midfield gave McInnes a natural midfielder alongside Funso Ojo, with Greg Leigh moving to his more orthodox position of left wing-back.
The two sides met at Pittodrie last month and Aberdeen ran out comfortable victors in that, with the 4-2 scoreline seeing Ryan Edmondson score his first club goals.
After that game Accies manager Brian Rice was left bemoaning his side not giving themselves a chance in shipping too many goals and the opener last night left him none too pleased.
Matty Kennedy utilised a decoy run by Tommie Hoban to open up a shooting angle from the edge of the box. Aaron Martin stopped the ball dead with a block but could not complete the clearance, with Hedges lashing home beyond Ryan Fulton.
Sam Cosgrove was still showing signs of getting back up to speed after his summer knee injury, on occasion waiting for passes to come to him instead of anticipating the path of the pass. However, when he plays on instinct he proves a more menacing prospect, with a snap-shot from 25 yards forcing Fulton to turn against the post.
The form of Hedges has been a constant positive for Aberdeen this season in the free role offered to him by McInnes. Even without his partner in crime Scott Wright for the last two games, his industry and quick-thinking in behind the striker(s) – not to mention a superb left foot – gives the Dons a fresh dimension in the final third.
At times it is tempting just to watch him, where he positions himself and what he might be on for him when the ball gets to his feet. One sumptuous delivery, arced round several Hamilton defenders, was narrowly out of Main’s reach at the back post.
Hamilton are desperate for something to turn in their favour. Prior to last night they had been without a league win since September 12, had been shelled for eight at Ibrox and lost Betfred Cup ties against League Two sides Annan Athletic and Stranraer. They may play at the Hope CBD Stadium but optimism has been in short supply.
Four minutes into the second period, a lifeline. Despite bullish calls for offside from the visitors, Ogkmpoe headed in Scott McMann’s hopeful free-kick into the box. The Greek striker’s long toil up top had finally borne fruit.
Aberdeen’s response was patient rather than powerful. Possession circulated, Campbell and Ojo dovetailing in the middle and Main a tireless presence up front. But this Accies side now had a renewed purpose and seemed far from the team which left Pittodrie shell-shocked in October.
More of the play was in Aberdeen’s half, with hesitation more prominent and mistakes forced. Ogkmpoe had a penalty appeal ignored by referee Gavin Duncan as Tommie Hoban came across him, nicking the ball away before sending the striker tumbling.
McInnes called for Niall McGinn and Ryan Edmondson in the closing stages, to try and find a match-winner. Fulton was alert to beat away Kennedy’s drive through a slew of bodies and Andy Considine headed over, as Accies managed to keep the back door bolted.
The hosts nearly stole it at the death, but for a spectacular one-handed stop from Joe Lewis to keep David Moyo at bay.