Inverness and Aberdeen served up a Christmas cracker last night as the Dons survived a second-half fight back in John Hughes’ first home game in charge of the Highland club.
The Pittodrie team seemed to be on easy street after a double from Barry Robson and strikes from Peter Pawlett and Niall McGinn gave the Dons a 4-0 interval lead.
Inverness came storming back though and a quick brace from sharp-shooter Billy McKay followed by a Graeme Shinnie header set up a nervy finish for the travelling Red Army.
After an uncomfortable opening that saw Jamie Langfield forced into a save after a defensive mix-up with Joe Shaughnessy, Derek McInnes’ charges took control with some scintillating football.
The threatening attacking trio of Scott Vernon, McGinn and Pawlett looked in the mood against an Inverness team enjoying a seven-match unbeaten run and the opening goal arrived on 22 minutes.
Josh Meekings was unfortunate to see a clipped Robson delivery come off his arm but referee, Steven McLean got it spot-on. The experienced midfielder took it upon himself to step up and made no mistake as he thumped a shot beyond Brill, who guessed right but was left clutching at fresh air as the ball flashed beyond his fingertips.
Cue Dons domination.
The second goal arrived to give McInnes and his players the cushion they desired with 32 minutes on the clock and it was former Inverness man Robson at it again. He adjusted himself brilliantly to meet Pawlett’s ball in and planted his header beyond Brill.
Skipper Russell Anderson and Pawlett both came close to adding a third before the latter did get his name on the score sheet. The rejuvenated youngster drove forward before a quick exchange with the outstanding Vernon resulted in the Englishman winning the ball ahead of Carl Tremarco to guide the ball away from Caley’s last line of defence.
A quite remarkable spell from the Pittodrie side was complete just before the half-time whistle when Niall McGinn added a fourth. Picking up possession he glided forward and shot low inside the post to the delight of the support behind the goal of a jubilant Jamie Langfield.
Whatever John Hughes dished out during the interval, it worked.
Within a minute of the restart Inverness found the net to restore some belief that a comeback was possible. A corner from the right was flapped at by Langfield before falling invitingly for McKay at the back post who slammed home.
Suddenly it was the away team that looked nervous as Hughes’ team went for their throats and within 10 minutes they had narrowed the margin to just two goals when McKay’s sharp finish made it 4-2.
The Inverness gaffer’s character was showing in his players as the Dons’ first-half form dramatically disappeared. A Nick Ross effort was pushed on to the bar by Langfield as the men in red wobbled further.
McInnes was forced into a change when he lost the influential Mark Reynolds to a nasty looking facial injury and he was replaced by Jonny Hayes.
The situation became critical in the last-minute of regulation time as Shinnie rose highest to nod past Langfield, but to the massive relief of the away followers their favourites clung on to claim a vital three points in their quest for success over a busy Christmas period.