Aberdeen v Rangers
Scottish Premier League
19th January 1985
At the beginning of 1985, Aberdeen were looking good in their defence of the Scottish Premier League. Only one defeat in the first 18 games saw Aberdeen in their now familiar position at the top of the table but this was covering what had been for Aberdeen’s standards anyway, a disappointing season. Back in August, they were dumped out of the League Cup by lowly Airdrie, and a matter of weeks later Dynamo Berlin had knocked the Dons out of the European Cup in a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out.
In the league though, it was business as usual. With Strachan, McGhee and Rougvie gone, it was down to the new boys to continue the success. Tommy McQueen, bought for a modest fee, was brought in as left-back from Clyde and was solid if unspectacular. Billy Stark, who was signed at the start of the previous season, filled Strachan’s boots and rewarded manager Alex Ferguson with goals aplenty from midfield. And replacing Mark McGhee was seen to be the hardest job, and Fergie again went to his old club St Mirren and signed up striker Frank McDougall for £100,000.
After a slow start, McDougall finally got off the mark in the first Saturday in September in a 4-0 win at home to Hibs, and he never looked back. He maybe lacked some of the skill that McGhee had, but he more than made up for it in front of goal, proving to be a lethal finisher - some of his goals bearing more than a passing resemblance to a certain Joey Harper’s from a few years back.
By the time Rangers came to Pittodrie in January, the Dons and McDougall in particular were in good form. The Glasgow side were not the formidable team they once were, and their recent record at Pittodrie was pretty average to say the least. Rangers were boosted for the game with the return of their own ‘rotund’ striker Derek Johnstone (no laughing at the back), and it was to be a striker who would grab all the headlines in this game. But not Johnstone.
As all Aberdeen-Rangers games, the match started frantically with both sides keen to take an early advantage. It was Aberdeen who got the breakthrough after 11 minutes. A fine through ball from Neil Simpson found Peter Weir on the left, his cross was cleared only to be fired straight back in where McDougall got in front of Nicky Walker in the Rangers goal to head the Dons in front.
Almost immediately Aberdeen went two up with a quite superb goal. Willie Miller drove forward and laid the ball off for Weir, his pass was met with a brilliant flick from Eric Black which in turn set Simpson away down the left. Simpson checked, and his cross was met perfectly by McDougall to score an almost carbon copy of his first.
Aberdeen were now well on top, but before half-time both sides were reduced to 10 men after Stewart McKimmie and Ally Dawson traded punches in the middle of the park. Referee Syme (from nowhere near Glasgow) had no option but send the pair off.
The second half saw the Dons continue where they left off, Rangers having no answer to the power and pace of Simpson and Weir. When Rangers did find a way through, they found Willie Miller once again in irresistible form.
With the home crowd begging for more goals, Aberdeen duly obliged. Fine work from McQueen set up Eric Black and his drive from the edge of the box found the net. With the cushion of three goals, the Dons could play with confidence, while their Glasgow rivals were now focusing on damage limitation. The fourth goal soon came. A corner on the left was cleared only to the path of Neil Simpson, his drive from 18 yards was turned into the net by McDougall, his first hat-trick for Aberdeen. Rangers claimed in vain for offside, clearly missing Ally McCoist’s failed attempt on the line to keep the ball out.
A consolation goal was now all that Rangers could hope to take from the match and they got it, with the aid of a deflected free kick from Robert Prytz(snigger). There was time for another goal for Aberdeen after Weir was brought down in the box by Craig Paterson (telt ye,stop laughing); Tommy McQueen stepping up and firing the fifth.
It was a magnificent performance, Aberdeen scoring five against Rangers for the first time since beating them by the same score in the 1976 League Cup semi-final.
Aberdeen went on that season to lose just one more game in the league, clinching the title with Willie Miller’s goal against Celtic at Pittodrie. It was to be the only trophy for the Dons that season, a record-breaking fourth Scottish Cup win in a row was taken away from them in cruel fashion at the semi final against Dundee United after some bizarre refereeing decisions. It was to be Frank’s season though: 24 goals for his debut year, 22 of them in the league.
It was to be an absolute travesty that Frank’s career would be cut short not two years later through injury.
Dons line up: Leighton, McKimmie, McQueen, Stark, Cooper, Miller, Black, Simpson, McDougall, Bell, Weir
Subs used: Mitchell, Hewitt