Aberdeen v Dundee Utd
Scottish Premier League
6th May 1995
The 1994-95 season was one of many lows and one incredible high for all Aberdeen fans. The previous two seasons saw the Dons playing some great football, score plenty goals, but ultimately end up with nothing come May.
Manager Willie Miller decided on drastic action in the summer of ’94. The old legs of Bett, Connor and McLeish were released, while Paatelianen and fans favourite Lee Richardson were sold. In their place came Billy Dodds, Peter Hetherston, Colin Woodthorpe and there were high hopes for the youngsters coming through including Stephen Glass, Hugh Robertson and Scott Thomson. Despite the turnaround in playing staff, the feeling was that Miller could finally win his first trophy for Aberdeen as manager.
Fast forward eight months and Willie was sacked, the goals had dried up, the Dons were out of both cups, an embarrassing defeat to Skonto Riga in Europe was still fresh in the memory, and John Inglis had signed (shudder).
To top it all, Aberdeen found themselves at the bottom of the league and looking very likely to suffer the fate of relegation for the first time in the club’s history. Away defeats to Motherwell and Rangers, and a home loss to Kilmarnock had put Aberdeen on the brink, and if results hadn’t gone their way, relegation would have become a reality at Tynecastle if they had lost to Hearts.
The Dons, finally realising all was almost lost pulled off a fantastic 2-1 win to set up a Pittodrie cracker the following week with Dundee United, who themselves were fighting to stay up.
Willie’s place in the dugout by this time had been taken over by assistant Roy Aitken, and after a superb start at home beating Rangers, Aitken suffered along with the travelling Dons support in seeing part-timers Stenhousemuir punt Aberdeen out of the Scottish Cup.
Aitken’s league record going into the United game was far from impressive. Only three wins from 10, but all that mattered now was a victory at Pittodrie and a win at Falkirk the following week would all but secure Premier League status for the Dons for another season.
The city of Aberdeen was on edge the whole week leading up to the game. 'What if?' seemed to be conversation starter in pubs the length of Union Street, fans unsure whether the Dons could pull off the impossible and avoid the drop. Come 3pm on the Saturday, and the Dons support packed out Pittodrie and the atmosphere was akin to a Wednesday European night under the lights.
The first half was cagey; both sides sensing the reality of defeat, and as expected from the two teams at the bottom of the league the fare on show wasn’t pretty.
Seven minutes before half time though and Aberdeen made the breakthrough. Joe Miller, who it has to be said was superb for much of the season, broke down the right and crossed for Jess, whose header was parried on the line only to be turned into the net by Dodds, who at last was finding his goalscoring form.
The goal settled the home side but despite their superiority the Dons couldn’t kill off United until the 68th minute. A wonderful through ball by Hetherston found Dodds wide on the left and he took the pass in his stride to feed Shearer who buried the ball low into the corner. 2-0.
Safe to say that Pittodrie then went bonkers - more relief than anything else I suppose - but this is Aberdeen and nothing was going to be easy. Sure enough with just five minutes left on the clock, future Dons striker-cum-goalkeeper Robbie Winters pulled a goal back to ensure the now-normal nervy last few moments.
Aberdeen needed to hold on, and hold on they did, and in turn escaped the automatic relegation slot which went to Winters and his teammates.
The following week's game at Falkirk was a formality. The Dons fans turned up in their thousands to witness a comfortable 2-0 victory to set up a two-legged play-off with Dunfermline, which thanks to new young Dons hero Stephen Glass was won on a 6-2 aggregate.
Right at the death, against all odds, Aberdeen had pulled off their own ‘Great Escape’.
Never again, we said.
Pity they didn’t listen.
Dons line-up: Snelders, McKimmie, Wright, Grant, Irvine, Smith, Hetherston, Shearer, Miller, Dodds, Jess
Subs used: Glass
For CaddyCarhandle's review of the whole 'Great Escape' 1994/95 season run-in, click here