Aberdeen returned from their 19-day hiatus to snatch a late Scottish Premiership win at St Johnstone thanks to Ryan Hedges’ deflected strike.
Derek McInnes’ side had been idle since the opening day after having three fixtures postponed for Covid-19 breaches by eight players.
St Johnstone were the slicker side but failed to capitalise on their rivals’ rustiness in this rearranged game.
And substitute Hedges punished them eight minutes from time.
His strike took a nick off Liam Gordon to secure Aberdeen’s first victory of the season and lift them to eighth.
St Johnstone are one spot above the visitors after Callum Davidson suffered defeat in his first home outing as manager.
Of the ‘Aberdeen eight’, four were available, yet only Jonny Hayes started. Unsurprisingly, with four strikers sidelined and combative midfielder Lewis Ferguson deployed as the central figure in a front three, it was a tentative and disjointed start from McInnes’ makeshift line-up.
The nervousness permeated the team, with even basic passes frequently going astray.
St Johnstone looked intent to make their superior fitness count, but were badly let down by a lack of end product. The hosts mustered just one shot on target all game, a Danny McNamara drive tipped over by Joe Lewis.
Callum Hendry rattled the post in the first half, but was correctly penalised for handball, before blazing wide after being gifted possession by Tommie Hoban in the second period.
Aberdeen coped comfortably at the back, where Ross McCrorie was making his debut following a move from Rangers.
The visitors almost took a shock lead shortly before half-time, with Funso Ojo’s acrobatic volley from a Hayes cross dropping just wide.
And they finished the stronger side, with Hoban glancing a header narrowly off target before Hedges – who only came on three minutes earlier – cut inside from the right flank to deceive goalkeeper Elliot Parish with a deflected finish.
Man of the match – Ryan Hedges
What did we learn?
Aberdeen relish trips to Perth. It’s now seven games unbeaten at McDiarmid Park for the Pittodrie side and this win – while far from pretty – was the best of the lot. Their sheer dogged determination is to be admired. They were well off the pace for long spells, but defended stoutly and weren’t content to settle for a point.
St Johnstone have started the campaign brightly, but their lack of attacking thrust in this defeat is a major concern. Aberdeen’s lack of action left them there for the taking, yet the hosts were dismal in the final third. Davidson must demand much better.
What did they say?
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “We defended really well, we snapped into tackles, put Aberdeen under pressure. It’s the final third where we lacked that little bit of quality.
“For me it had 0-0 written all over that game. It was a poor goal, we could stop it at the source better, and then we didn’t move the ball well enough after that.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: “In light of everything, the stop-start nature of our campaign, just getting up and running, it was all about getting that first win no matter how you get it.
“It’s a difficult place to come, they set up to frustrate and counter-attack. That said, we know we can do better and we’ll do better as we go along.”
Both sides won’t play until Sunday, with Aberdeen hosting Livingston at 15:00 and St Johnstone staying in Perth to take on undefeated Hibernian at 16:30.