St Johnstone 1-2 Aberdeen: Match Report
Aberdeen seal Europa League spot for next season after edging out St Johnstone
Aberdeen moved on from their Rangers humbling by battling to a 2-1 victory at St Johnstone to guarantee themselves a place in the Europa League next season.
The Dons succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at Pittodrie last Sunday as Gers reignited the battle for second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, but Derek McInnes' men retained their nine-point advantage at McDiarmid Park on Saturday.
Ryan Christie's strike and Tam Scobbie's own goal gave the visitors a cushion they did not surrender, despite the best efforts of a Saints side who pulled one back through substitute Danny Swanson's penalty early in the second half.
But Aberdeen held firm as they shut the door on any team other than Rangers catching them this campaign to secure European football in 2017/18.
Saturday's showing also lifts the mood of Derek McInnes' men ahead of next week's Scottish Cup semi-final with defending champions Hibernian, who ensured they will go into the game with plenty of confidence after wrapping up the Championship title.
For St Johnstone, any glimmer of hope in catching the Dons was extinguished while they wasted the opportunity to extend their four-point lead over Hearts in the battle for fourth place.
Manager Tommy Wright restored full-back Richard Foster to his starting line-up but Swanson, who was also available after the two-match ban imposed after their flare-up at Hamilton, had to be content with a place on the bench.
David Wotherspoon stepped in for the suspended Graham Cummins, with Perth players wearing black armbands in memory of club tea lady Aggie Moffat, who died on Thursday.
Irish winger Niall McGinn was a surprise omission from the Dons line-up after an apparent training ground injury, paving the way for a start for the influential Christie.
In the eighth minute Jonny Hayes picked out Graeme Shinnie's run into the box and the Aberdeen midfielder was relieved to spot an offside flag after sending his point-blank connection soaring over the gaping target.
The Dons capped their early pressure with a 19th minute opener crafted and converted in style by Christie.
Cutting in from the right flank, the winger latched onto a return pass from Adam Rooney, evaded a lunge from Paul Paton and picked out the top corner from 12 yards despite goalkeeper Alan Mannus getting a despairing touch.
The Dons doubled their advantage in the 32nd minute when panic-stricken defender Scobbie touched another teasing Hayes cross into his own net from close range, with the ball trundling slowly over the line.
Saints were thrown a 48th minute lifeline when centre-half Anthony O'Connor was adjudged to have bundled over Steven MacLean and Swanson calmly slotted the spot-kick inside the post.
Swanson then opted to shoot early with the flustered Dons defence posted missing in the 57th minute and his 25-yarder skinned well wide.
It proved to be the most clear cut chance Saints had to snatch a point.