- Five home games without a goal for Hamilton for first time in five years
- Accies’ last victory came on January 4 in Alex Neil’s final game in charge
- Aberdeen won 10 of last 12 league matches
- One goal conceded by the Dons in last eight on the road
- 13 points now separate the two sides
ABERDEEN trimmed Celtic’s Scottish Premiership lead to three points with victory at New Douglas Park to leave 10-man Hamilton without a win under player-manager Martin Canning.
The Dons were two ahead inside eight minutes after quick-fire strikes from Andrew Considine and Ryan Jack.
Adam Rooney was controversially denied a third before half-time when his powerful effort crossed the goalline when rebounding off the underside of the crossbar although assistant referee David McGeachie did not flag.
Accies had defender Jesus Garcia Tena sent off for a second bookable offence on the hour mark and Niall McGinn rattled home a third that the Dons fully deserved three minutes from time.
The Dons lost 3-0 on their last visit to Hamilton in October but matched the scoreline they beat the Lanarkshire outfit at Pittodrie in December to extend their unbeaten stretch to 12 matches, their best such run in the league since 1993.
Derek McInnes’s side, who are nine points better off than at this stage last term, move closer to the champions and three points clear of third-placed Inverness in what is shaping up to be an intriguing title tussle.
Accies meanwhile remain fifth, four points behind fourth-placed Dundee United, as they await a maiden victory under Canning’s stewardship after seven games since the defender replaced Norwich-bound Alex Neil last month.
A fifth defeat during that time has dented hopes of securing a first top-six finish in the top-flight since 1936 as the club, who were promoted via the Premiership play-offs last term, face testing times after charismatic boss Neil and top scorer Tony Andreu’s moves north of the border.
Nigel Hasselbaink, who re-signed earlier this month after being released by Greek side Veria, was set for his second debut but the Dutch striker did not receive international clearance in time therefore it was unchanged team from last weekend’s goalless draw against Kilmarnock.
The Dons bounced back from their League Cup semi-final defeat to Dundee United by thumping bottom-club Ross County a week ago and McInnes made only one change with Peter Pawlett coming in for Cammy Smith.
And the visitors picked up where they left off with two quick-fire goals in the space of 85 seconds in the opening exchanges to leave Hamilton shell-shocked.
McGinn was the architect of both, first providing a dangerous delivery which was inadvertently diverted towards his own goal by Ziggy Gordon and palmed out by goalkeeper Michael McGovern straight into the path of Considine who netted his second of the season.
The Dons midfielder then picked out the run of Jack with an inch-perfect centre at the end of a counter attack and the 22-year-old got in front of Stephen Hendrie to apply a precise finish into the roof of the net.
And as their blistering start continued to delight the 1,200 away supporters, Shaleum Logan should have netted for the second successive game on the quarter-hour mark but could only send Considine’s inswinging cross wide from close range with a diving header.
The Dons caused considerable problems to the Accies defence in wide areas with Gordon and Hendrie given the run-around by the movement of the midfield trio McGinn, Jonny Hayes and Peter Pawlett.
The hosts threatened for the first time midway through the first half when Hendrie’s cross from the left narrowly evaded Jason Scotland.
During their best spell of the opening 45, the Accies left-back – who has agreed to join West Ham in the summer – saw a long-range effort deflect over the crossbar and another shot inside the box skid across the face of goal.
Accies, who enjoyed the majority of the possession and began to create several openings, could have reduced the deficit on 32 minutes.
Ali Crawford’s squared-pass released Scotland but the 35-year-old – making a third successive start – was denied by the feet of Dons keeper Scott Brown before Mark Reynolds cleared the loose ball in the vicinity of the goalline.
Darian MacKinnon then guided Garcia Tena’s flick-on off target with a header from a driven Crawford corner.
Aberdeen had lost much of their earlier control but must have thought they were out of sight before half-time when controversially denied a third.
Hayes pulled back for 21-goal top scorer Adam Rooney, whose effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and was confirmed by replays to have crossed the line but no goal was awarded.
McGovern also made a terrific diving save to thwart a cushioned Pawlett header from another deep cross by the impressive Considine before the Dons boss waited for the match officials in the tunnel area after the half-time whistle sounded.
Hamilton started the second period brightly with Crawford and Scotland both firing efforts off target from 20 yards.
Although Aberdeen were eager themselves to put the game to bed and the elusive next goal again evaded them when Rooney’s snapshot on the volley was denied superbly by McGovern before the Dons striker appeared to have been wrestled over in the box by Garcia Tena but nothing was given.
Accies’ task was already proving difficult enough and it became considerably harder when Tena picked up two bookings in the space of eight minutes from referee Willie Collum, the second on the hour mark for bundling over McGinn in a threatening position.
From the resulting free-kick, Kenny McLean – on his second Dons appearance since his £300,000 January deadline day signing from St Mirren – called McGovern into action with a curling effort which was parried behind.
Considine then had the ball in the net for the second time when he headed home Pawlett’s cross but it was ruled out as the defender had been adjudged to have fouled Grant Gillespie in the process.
Rooney and Considine brought further saves out of McGovern as the Dons exercised their superiority and numerical advantage without capitalising in the way of further goals.
With the three points safe, McInnes gave run-outs to Willo Flood and David Goodwillie with 15 minutes to go.
And the latter also had a goal wrongly chalked off for offside when converting Pawlett’s cross from a yard out even though Accies substitute Eamonn Brophy was playing him on by standing off the pitch.
Logan and Jack also had other opportunities either side of McGinn’s late finish, the Northern Irishman slamming home from 12 yards as he raced onto Considine’s well-weighted pass from the left to increase the margins in the closing stages.
Despite the Dons having several reasons to be aggrieved with the officials, the decisions mattered little as a dominant display secured three points which keeps them within touching distance of Celtic ahead of the trip to Parkhead in a fortnight’s time.
Hamilton are the next visitors to the east end of Glasgow next weekend and the Accies will have to solve their scoring problems if they stand a chance of repeating October’s famous win over Ronny Deila’s side with Canning the only player to net in the last six games.
Substitutes: Watson (for Crawford 64′), Brophy (for Scotland 77′), Sumsky (for Gillespie 84′)
Booked: Jesus Garcia Tena (52)
Sent-off: Jesus Garcia Tena (60)
Substitutes: Flood (for Hayes 75′), Goodwillie (for Pawlett 78′), Robson (for Rooney 79′)
Goals: Considine (6), Jack (8), McGinn (87)
Assists: McGinn (2), Considine
Referee: Willie Collum (Scotland) – 6/10