Aberdeen 0-0 St Johnstone

Fyvie and Sheridan challenge for the ball at Pittodrie
Fyvie and Sheridan challenge for the ball at Pittodrie

Aberdeen and St Johnstone served up the goalless draw many feared and predicted in the Pittodrie sunshine.

It was the Dons fifth home league clean sheet, while only Rangers have conceded fewer away goals than Saints and the play reflected those statistics.

Fraser Fyvie headed wide from close range to squander Aberdeen's best chance of a lively first half.

And Saints' Francisco Sandaza failed to find the target from a good position as the game fell flat after the break.

The draw means both sides fail in their attempt to move up one place in the Scottish Premier League table.

Aberdeen, who have now gone 10 games without defeat, remain eighth behind Dundee United, while Saints, without a win in five games, stay fifth behind Hearts.

Dons manager Craig Brown handed January signing Gavin Rae his debut in midfield alongside Ryan Jack as Youl Mawene and Rory Fallon dropped to the bench.

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Interview - Aberdeen manager Craig Brown

It meant Rory McArdle playing in an unfamiliar left-back role despite left-footer Mark Reynolds being in the centre.

And there was immediate uncertainty in the Dons rearguard when a poor Stephen Hughes pass put Reynolds in trouble, but Saints failed to capitalise when Sandaza was caught offside before forcing a save from Jason Brown.

However, it was a Saints defence minus the injured Steven Anderson and the dropped Alan Maybury who were looking the more porous in the early stages.

Scott Vernon wriggled free of his marker and powered into the box only to stumble as he sent a weak shot trundling straight at goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

Kari Arnason's fine ball found Mitch Megginson in a similar position, but the forward pulled his shot well wide from 18 yards after the Saints defence stood off the teenager.

Fyvie had a more clear-cut chance but he steered a header wide from 14 yards after being found unmarked in a crowded penalty box by Ryan Jack's cross.

Possession was fairly even between the sides, but Saints, despite the influential Callum Davidson and Dave Mackay returning to the line-up after the midweek Scottish Cup defeat by Hearts, were relying heavily on individual moments of flair from Sandaza or their opponents mistakes to make any headway.

The Spaniard spun away from his marker to send a low drive wide, intercepted a poor Reynolds pass before firing straight at Brown then had another 18-yard effort squirm under the goalkeeper before it was grabbed at the second attempt.

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Interview - St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas

Hughes' through ball sent Vernon clear on the edge of the box and the Dons striker sent a powerful, dipping effort curling just wide of the near post.

Play failed to match the brightness of the winter sunshine as the two sides struggled to cope with a difficult pitch and it was 12 minutes into the second half before the first chance was created after the break.

After being teed up by Cillian Sheridan 16 yards from goal, Sandaza fired wildly over the Dons crossbar before the Spaniard set up Chris Millar for a shot blocked in front of goal.

Arnason forced Mannus into a save with a 25-yard drive, fired another long-range effort a couple of feet wide then substitute Mohamed Chalali hooked an effort just past the same upright as the Dons exerted some late pressure.

St Johnstone substitute Marcus Haber headed wide under pressure from close range as the last chance of the game slipped away.

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