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Barry Robson praises young Dons who stunned Arbroath in SPFL Trust Trophy

The young Dons celebrate Kevin Hanratty's winning penalty.
The young Dons celebrate Kevin Hanratty's winning penalty.

Aberdeen coach Barry Robson hailed his young Dons after they defied the odds to knock Championship side Arbroath out of the SPFL Trust Trophy on penalties.

Michael Ruth, who spent last season on loan at Arbroath, came off the bench to open the scoring after 74 minutes but Liam Henderson levelled for the visitors deep in injury time.

Undeterred by that setback, goalkeeper Tom Ritchie saved two spot-kicks in the shootout to deny Henderson and James Craigen as the young Dons won 4-1 on penalties.

Robson, whose side will travel to Hamilton Accies in the third round, said: “We were up against a really good Arbroath side. I watched their last three games on video and I knew what was coming.

“They have experienced players and we knew the style they wanted to play.

“We put out a team with two 16-year-olds, a 17-year-olds and the rest of them aside from Jack Gurr are 18.

“It is a massive result for them as you could see the size and speed of the players they were up against.

“I thought they were fantastic.”

Aberdeen coach Barry Robson shouts instructions from the touchline.

Robson was impressed with how quickly his young charges bounced back after conceding an equaliser in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

He said: “That was probably the most pleasing thing.

“You could see the belief they had to take the penalty kicks.

“You need that belief if you are going to be a professional footballer.

“That is such a difficult game for those kids.

“We weren’t talking about an Aberdeen B team or an under-23 team. It was two 16-year-olds, a 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds playing.

“They aren’t working together every day because some of them are on loan at Highland League clubs.

“We got them all together one day ago and tried to put a plan in place.

“They showed that fight and spirit that is required to be an Aberdeen player.”

Aberdeen’s Kieran Ngwenya holds off Arbroath midfielder Dylan Paterson. Picture by Scott Baxter.

Right back Jack Gurr, a summer signing from Atlanta United, started for the Dons, while Kevin Hanratty, Tyler Mykyta and Jack Milne, who are all on loan at Highland League clubs, were also named in the starting line-up.

There was a familiar face in the Arbroath side with former Don Nicky Low wearing the armband for the visitors.

Dick Campbell’s side enjoyed the bulk of possession during the opening period with the Dons, set up in a 5-4-1 formation, having to do a lot of hard work without the ball.

Dylan Paterson almost notched a spectacular opener for the Red Lichties with a driving run and powerful attempt that whistled over.

Luke Donnelly created an opening for himself with some smart play but Ritchie in the Aberdeen goal was equal to his low drive.

The visitors were inches away from breaking the deadlock in the last action of the first half when Paterson’s scooped shot bounced back off the crossbar.

Aberdeen should have made Arbroath pay for their profligacy after 58 minutes when Kieran Ngwenya burst through on goal but the left back drilled his effort wide.

But Arbroath still looked the more likely to break the deadlock and Low went agonisingly close to marking his Pittodrie return with a goal when his blistering effort cannoned back off the crossbar.

The opening goal eventually arrived after 74 minutes and it went to the hosts.

Ngwenya showed great desire to latch onto Mykyta’s searching pass and crossed for substitute Ruth to convert from close range.

The Dons had a lucky escape soon after when Ritchie spilled a cross and Jason Thomson struck the crossbar from five yards out when a goal looked certain.

Just as the Dons looked set to hold out for an impressive victory, Arbroath managed to draw level in the dying embers when the home side failed to deal with a corner and Henderson’s chip found the back of the net in the fourth minute of injury time.

But Ritchie performed heroics in the shootout to thwart Henderson and Craigen with Mykyta, Ruth, Ryan Duncan and Hanratty all confidently slotting home from the spot to spark scenes of jubilation from the young players.

 

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