Clarkson goal helps Aberdeen to first league win of 2024

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Clarkson goal helps Aberdeen to first league win of 2024

Aberdeen recorded their first cinch Premiership victory of 2024 with a 1-0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park.

Leighton Clarkson slammed home the decisive goal after 25 minutes to end a run of 12 games without a league win for the Dons and move them three points clear of second-bottom Ross County.

Motherwell thought they had drawn themselves level when Lennon Miller found the net five minutes before half-time but they were denied following a lengthy VAR check.

Aberdeen leapfrogged St Johnstone into ninth, while Motherwell’s chances of a top-six spot are fading fast after losing ground on sixth-placed Hibernian.

How Aberdeen earned victory

There was a controversial moment inside the opening 40 seconds when Junior Hoilett was shown a yellow card for a dive inside the box.

Dons striker Bojan Miovski came close to ending his run of seven games without a goal with a deft chip that sailed just past the post.

Motherwell almost opened the scoring with their first opportunity. Blair Spittal’s free-kick was only partially cleared and it required a vital block by Jack MacKenzie to divert Dan Casey’s close-range effort behind for a corner.

Dons caretaker Peter Leven was forced into an early change as Nicky Devlin hobbled off and was replaced by Jack Milne in the 22nd minute.

Aberdeen made the breakthrough thanks to a controlled finish from Clarkson after Miovski’s shot had cannoned off the post.

Motherwell responded in a positive fashion. Sam Nicholson passed up a good opportunity to level after superbly controlling Stephen O’Donnell’s pass from deep inside his own half before firing against the legs of Kelle Roos.

It looked like Miller had found an equaliser when he angled a low drive that deflected beyond Roos. However, his goal was ruled out after a lengthy VAR check deemed Theo Bair to have handled in the build-up.

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An eventful first half ended with further chances. Connor Barron should have doubled Aberdeen’s lead after he rose unmarked to meet Hoilett’s corner and Liam Kelly was then forced into a good stop to turn Miovski’s goal-bound shot over the bar.

Stuart Kettlewell made a double change at half-time as he introduced Georgie Gent and Andy Halliday in place of Bevis Mugabi and Nicholson.

The hosts were struggling to break through the stubborn Dons defence and they almost found themselves two goals behind when Miovski brought out a fantastic one-handed save from Kelly.

Spittal had a tame effort gathered, before Casey took the brunt of a fizzing Jamie McGrath shot in the face.

Two fine saves from Roos in quick succession kept out Bair and the Canadian striker then glanced wide from his third chance in the space of a minute.

Halliday was next to force a crucial save from Roos with a curling effort from the edge of the box.

The away side were still offering a threat on the counter-attack, and Kelly produced some heroics of his own to deny Dante Polvara.

What the managers said…

Interim Aberdeen boss Peter Leven: “There is a bit of breathing space and the three points are massive.

“But we can’t look at other teams around us. It’s all about us and what we can do.

“I don’t look at what happened elsewhere. We can’t affect what happens elsewhere and the boys just need to keep getting results and keep climbing the table.”

Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell after vital VAR decisions went against his team: “I’ve just looked at the incident at the end of the game, it’s the first time I’ve had that situation. The ball 100 per cent comes off Shinnie’s arm and his arm is out from his body.

“We’ve all spoke about the incidents you see with Celtic and Hearts the other week there – somehow I don’t think this will gather as much traction as what that did.

“Somebody is going to have to sum this up for me, somebody is going to have to give me some sort of clarity.

“I’ve already said I’m not going back and speaking to (Scottish Football Association head of referee operations) Crawford Allan because it’s going absolutely nowhere on a Monday morning, trying to find out why that was the case.

“We’re going to have to try tidy this up for the sake of Scottish football.

“What I should be doing as always is talking about our team, our performance and how the game has went – but no we’re back talking about handballs and VAR.”

What’s next?

Motherwell return to Scottish Premiership action after the international break at home to St Mirren on March 30, while Aberdeen host Ross County.

Both games kick-off at 3pm.

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