Date: 28th January 2007 at 6:21pm
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Aberdeen`s Euro bid took a shot in the arm yesterday as the Dons deservedly beat St. Mirren in Paisley but helpfully, Rangers and Hearts could only draw at Tynecastle.

These results lifted Aberdeen above Hearts into third with a game in hand. All of a sudden things are starting to look rosy again for the Dons.

Aberdeen have come through their difficult Christmas period where they had to play all their main rivals plus Celtic and are still in contention for the Euro places.

Rangers` burst of adrenaline they received when Walter Smith returned may prove to be only that as the 1-0 result against bottom club Dunfermline last week coupled with yesterdays 0-0 draw is a far cry from the rejuvenated mauling they delivered in Smith`s first match, the 5-0 thrashing of Dundee United.

Aberdeen are still very much alive in this Euro race and although Rangers appear to be setting their stall out to plan only for the remainder of this season and to guarantee 2nd place, the capture of veterans Weir and Ehiogu is testament to that plan, it is their interest in Hearts main man Paul Hartley that should knock the Edinburgh side out of contention for second.

Hearts started yesterdays` game without both he and Scotland number 1 Craig Gordon and the club put this down to a business decision. Hartley will be named as a Rangers player this week, Gordon will have also left the club to seek far more ambitious honours with Arsenal and Bayern Munich reportedly interested.

With Aberdeen now four points behind Rangers and the potential of 3 points to collect from their re-arranged match with Motherwell, this season could be shaping to an exciting climax. Rangers are obviously and necessarily strengthening with new players but they may take time to bed. The Dons have two of their most influential, creative and experienced players in Jamie Smith and Craig Brewster to return. Both clubs are out of domestic tournaments but Rangers still have some Euro affairs to deal with. If Smith`s previous Rangers Euro track record is anything to go by, that shouldn`t take too much time out of their schedule but the opposition is distinctly inferior in this tournament than to those who, embarrassingly for all Scottish football, humiliated us all with their thrashings of “The Pride of Glasgow”.

Smith had the pleasure of international superstars like Laudrup, Gascoigne, Goram and Gough, all now Rangers legends, at his command but he could not commandeer a route to any Euro success despite the tens of millions spent and the many chances he had to do so. This tournament Rangers are presently competing in cannot be considered even a close second, not even deserved to be mentioned with the same “Euro Tournament” title as to the one which Rangers were always defeated heavily in but by the likes of winners Borussia Dortmund and Juventus which is a slight comfort to fans concerned about the decline of our league.

Aberdeen looked yesterday as if they we were heading back to their seasons` best, in the first half at least. The extended week off seemed to have been the tonic needed as players playing below par managed to raise their game again or perhaps finally have been able to shrug off the flu that gripped the club.

Crucially Aberdeen could only put two past St. Mirren. Goal difference could come into play, Aberdeen are only one goal ahead of Hearts and must start being more clinical in the box. Many more goals looked likely as Darren Mackie was thwarted twice when clean through and Lovell, again not being able to score from a starting role, missed opportunities to score. The mobility of Lovell upfront did look far more threatening than when Lee Miller plays and the amount of chances created must make Calderwood think that Lovell is the man to lead the line.

The goals came from an unlikely source. Teenager Andrew Considine notched both, his first professional goals. A six yard left footed finish and a right footed volley from Nicholson`s corner 10 minutes before half time had the points all but sown up but Considine`s involvement in the match was nearly not only resigned to being noted for his positive contribution. His 82nd minute tackle on Kirk Broadfoot resulted in a penalty which gave Jamie Langfield a chance to redeem himself a little. Langfield has been in no doubt the cost of many of Aberdeen`s goals against this season and was threatened that he`d be dropped despite his managers` high opinion of him. Richard Brittain took the kick and placed the ball to the bottom left of the goal but Langfield was smartly down to pull off a tremendous stop and keep another clean sheet.

Calderwood spoke of Langfield after the match and gave him another vote of confidence. He said: ‘Jamie has saved us again – it could have been a very difficult last 10 minutes. I still think he is the best Scottish goalkeeper outside of big Craig Gordon.

His mistakes have been highlighted but he has got a better record than Craig Gordon in the last 40 games.’

Calderwood went on to sum up the match and still demands more from his team.

It could have been four or five in the first half, we were absolutely dominant,’ said the Dons boss following the 2-0 triumph.

We started the second half sloppily after we warned them and warned them.” We were hanging on when it should have been sewn up at half-time. As happy as I was with the first half, the second half was poor.’