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Aberdeen’s dramatic comeback puts them within touching distance of Celtic

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Aberdeen passed another major test of character in their quest for a first title since 1985 by coming from behind to beat Partick Thistle 2-1 in a thriller at Firhill.

A stunning strike from Steven Lawless gave Partick the lead but two quick-fire goals from Andrew Considine and Simon Church kept the title challenge well and truly alive.

The victory moves the Dons only a point behind leaders Celtic having played one game more than Ronny Deila’s side.

Even Dons manager Derek McInnes has started to buck with the usual trend at Pittodrie by talking up his side’s title chances and they proved capable of handling the pressure again.

The Dons were boosted by the inclusion of Jonny Hayes, who returned from a torn hamstring suffered in last month’s 3-1 defeat in Inverness. A broken arm meant Peter Pawlett missed out, while Niall McGinn was a surprise absentee.

Barry Robson dropped to the bench after making his first start of the season in last week’s 1-0 win against Dundee United with Mark Reynolds and Craig Storie both given starting spots.

Partick were without the injured Stuart Bannigan, the out of contract midfielder who the Dons are keen to take to Pittodrie in the summer, with Gary Fraser picked as his replacement.

The Dons made a promising start with Graeme Shinnie, deployed in a more advanced position on the left side of midfield, skipping past Christie Elliott with ease but his low driven cross was hacked clear by Liam Lindsay to prevent Simon Church applying the finishing touch.

Aberdeen had to be patient in the early stages against a well-organised Jags defence but they did manage to break through after 21 minutes when Kenny McLean raced onto an excellent Shinnie pass but the former St Mirren player’s attempt was straight at Tomas Cerny.

Hayes, who was sporting a pair of tights to offer an added layer of protection following his injury lay-off, was Aberdeen’s most creative outlet in the opening period and went close to breaking the deadlock when he drilled a low effort wide.

Worryingly for Aberdeen, Partick started to look more of a threat in the final third as the half wore on with Liam Lindsay’s header saved by Scott Brown before Gary Fraser’s delicate chip landed just over.

The Dons were inches away from taking the lead soon after. An arrowed free kick from Hayes was headed on by Reynolds for Church whose flick over Cerny scraped the crossbar.

The Partick goalkeeper then displayed great bravery, taking a kick to the ribs as he saved at the feet of Reynolds with the Dons defender harshly booked for what appeared an honest attempt to play the ball.

Partick looked the livelier team after the restart with Reynolds coming to the rescue after David Amoo was afforded far too much space in the penalty area.

The hosts had a lucky escape at the other end soon after when Storie’s powerful free kick was cleared off the line by Sean Welsh when the ball looked destined for the net.

The game badly needed a goal but, unfortunately for Aberdeen, it was Partick who made the breakthrough thanks to a moment of brilliance.

There appeared to be little danger when Lawless gathered possession from 25 yards but the midfielder produced a venomous strike that fizzed into the top corner, leaving Brown with no chance.

Aberdeen were reeling and almost conceded another when Amoo crossed for Mathias Pogba but Brown managed to claw the ball away to safety.

The Dons looked down and out but they somehow found a way back into the match.

They restored parity after 74 minutes when a Hayes cross was headed home from close range by Considine.

And two minutes later they were in front.

A corner from substitute Barry Robson was superbly headed home by Church for his fourth goal in six appearances.

The comeback was complete.

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