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Jonny Hayes finds the target as Aberdeen close gap on Hibernian for third spot

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 2021-04-10
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Jonny Hayes (PA Wire)

Jonny Hayes’ second-half goal earned Aberdeen a 1-0 win at St Johnstone and edged them closer to Hibernian in the battle for third place in the Scottish Premiership.

The Easter Road side, who face champions Rangers on Sunday at Ibrox, now have just a four-point advantage on the Pittodrie club.

Goals have been hard to come by for the Dons in recent months but veteran midfielder Hayes broke the deadlock in Perth to secure a win which delighted interim boss Paul Sheerin and incoming manager Stephen Glass, who is in quarantine after flying in from the USA.

In common with grounds across the country, a minute’s silence was held before kick-off in memory of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Rangers attacker Glenn Middleton was given his first start for Saints since arriving on loan from Ibrox.

Dons on-loan striker Callum Hendry, who had netted their only two goals in the previous 11 games, was ruled out against his parent club.

Saints started brightly and should have secured a 13th minute lead to reward their early probing.

The Dons defence could only half-clear a swinging Craig Conway free-kick and Chris Kane failed to find the target with a rising shot from 10 yards.

Earlier, Dons defender Tommie Hoban did well to deflect a fierce volley from Middleton for a corner at the end of a four-man passing sequence which stretched the Dons rearguard.

Dons defender Andrew Considine was cautioned for a trip on Kane but he produced their first attacking threat in the 23rd minute, with his header on a Niall McGinn corner taking a deflection to carry it wide of the target.

St Johnstone skipper Jason Kerr rose to meet a 33rd minute Conway delivery but the defender’s header veered wide.

Dons players claimed a spot-kick soon after the interval when the ball clipped Craig in the box but referee John Beaton was not interested.

And they were celebrating a rare goal in the 52nd minute, when Hayes provided a clinical finish despite the attention of two Saints defenders and keeper Clark after latching onto Matty Kennedy’s pass.

Boosted by breaking the deadlock, the Dons carved out another opportunity in the 68th minute.

But half-time substitute Fraser Hornby, who had replaced Swiss international Florian Kamberi, cut a frustrated figure as his close-range header found the side netting after being picked out by Northern Ireland international McGinn.

PHOme defender Shaun Rooney was denied a late equaliser when his close-range header struck the post.

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