Frustration for the Dons as they end 2017 with stalemate against 10 man Hearts

Aberdeen's Joe Lewis.
Aberdeen's Joe Lewis.

ABERDEEN called time on 2017 with a frustrating 0-0 draw against 10 man Hearts at Pittodrie in a game where both keepers produced superb saves.

Boss Derek McInnes had called for the Reds to see off the Jambos to reach a club record 45 points going into the winter break.

Ultimately they couldn’t deliver as they were held by a well organised Hearts side who extended their unbeaten run to nine games and set a new club record of six successive sheets.

In front of a crowd of 18,371 the Reds couldn’t make the breakthrough needed to end the year on a high.

The Jambos were reduced to 10 men with two minutes remaining when substitute Kyle Lafferty received a straight red for a shocking challenge on Graeme Shinnie on the left flank.

The Dons  failed to take advantage of league leaders Celtic dropping points by drawing 0-0 with Rangers in the  early kick-off.

Aberdeen now trail defending champions Celtic by eight points going into the winter break.

Dons boss McInnes made one change to the side that ground out a 1-0 win against Partick Thistle on Wedesday with Kari Arnason returning to the starting line-up.

On loan Birmingham City attacker Greg Stewart dropped to the bench.

New Aberdeen signing Niall McGinn was paraded on the pitch before kick-off to the delight of the Red Army.

The Northern Ireland completed his return to Pitttodrie earlier this week having signed a three-and-a-half year deal until summer 2021.

Hearts, Hibs and MK Dons were keen on signing the 30-year-old who was a free agent having terminated his contract early with South Korean side Gwangju.

McGinn,  who left the Reds at the end of last season having rejected a Dons deal, will officially become an Aberdeen player again on Monday – when the January transfer window opens.

The winger will make his Dons return in a  closed door friendly against Uzbekistan side Lokomotiv Tashkent in Dubai on Sunday January 14 as part of a week long warm weather training  camp.

Aberdeen were the first to threaten in the sixth minute from a training ground set piece move. Anthony O’Connor swung a corner from the right to outside of the penalty area to the unmarked Kenny McLean but the midfielder blasted a volley over.

In the 11th minute striker Adam Rooney attempted an audacious over-head kick at the near post when latching onto a blocked Gary Mackay-Steven shot but his five yard effort was collected by keeper Jon McLaughlin.

Moments later Rooney was inches short of connecting with an inswigning  McLean cross that skidded off the slippy surface and was collected by McLaughlin.

Hearts made a change in the 17th minute when Michael Smith hobbled off injured and was replaced by Daniel Baur.

In the 29th minute Jambos skipper Christophe Berra raced upfield and unleashed a speculative 30 yard effort which flew well over Joe Lewis’  goal.

Moments later Lewis denied Hearts with a superb save.

The visitors broke on the counter-attack with Esmael Goncalves sliding a cross-field pass  to the unmarked David Milinkovic.

Aberdeen were ripped wide open as  the defence was posted  missing.

Reacting quickly keeper Lewis raced off his line and spread his body to block Milinkovic’s shot.

In the 41st minute Hearts’ keeper McLaughlin was called into  action and produced a superb point blank reaction save to deny Rooney’s five yard volley on the turn.

Dons boss McInnes made an attacking substitution at half-time,  taking off full-back Andy Considine to be replaced by  Greg Stewart who  played through the middle up front alongside Rooney.

Early in the second half a long throw in fell to Rooney 12 yards out but the striker ballooned a volley on the turn from a central position high over the bar. However he was getting himself into dangerous positions.

In the 58th minute a powerful Stewart shot was deflected wide.

Defender Scott McKenna connected with the resultant corner but his vicious six yard header was magnificently saved by keeper McLaughlin.

Hearts threatened in  the 75th minute when John Souttar broke forward and slid a pass to Goncalves on the over-lap down the right flank.

He stepped inside and shot across the face of goal and wide to waste a strong opportunity.

The Jambos were reduced to 10 men with two minutes remaining when substitute Kyle Lafferty received a straight red for a terrible challenge on Dons captain Shinnie.

However Hearts held out to secure a point.

ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan,  Arnason, McKenna, O’Connor, Considine, Shinnie, McLean, Christie, Mackay-Steven, Rooney.

SUBS: Stewart (for Considine 46), Maynard (for Rooney 81), Wright (for Mackay-Steven 81)

SUBS NOT USED: Rogers, Reynolds, Harvie, Ball.

HEARTS: McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Hughes, Berra, Milinkovic, Cowie, Brandon, McDonald, Cochrane, Goncalves.

SUBS: Baur (for Smith 17), Lafferty (for McDonald 35)

SUBS NOT USED: Hamilton,  Martin, Stockton, Petkov, Henderson.

REFEREE: John Beaton