Date: 28th December 2006 at 7:10am
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Perhaps a little surprisingly, Aberdeen will go into the match against Dundee United with second place to lose after their Euro rivals Rangers were defeated away to Inverness last night to add to the defeat they suffered from Caley at Ibrox earlier this season.

The Dons had jumped the Glasgow club with their 3-1 victory over Kilmarnock at the weekend which had been achieved through a performance that fans and critics have been describing as the best of the season and even the best since “the two Jimmys” took charge.

Prior to the match, much discussion and pessimism had taken place about the injury to key player Jamie Smith who had suffered a groin injury in the recent defeat to Rangers. Many thought the Dons could not cope without his pace, drive and ability to get dangerous crosses in but Jimmy Calderwood still had a late Christmas present to unwrap in front of the home support. 17 year old Chris Maguire was told on Christmas Day that he would be starting this match after he has turned in some excellent performances as a substitute and would be taking Smith`s position on the wing.

Young Maguire didn’t waste any time in endearing himself to the Dons support as he rattled in two drives from distance that had Graeme Smith in goal soundly alerted to the young lad form Bellshill’s intentions. His warning shots should have been enough to convince the Killie defence that this boy could be a serious threat but they could not do enough to prevent him notching his full debut goal after only 6 minutes.

The youngster picked up the ball from the edge of the penalty area after Barry Nicholson headed forward to curl in an unstoppable shot from almost 25 yards which put the home side on course for their first win over Killie in almost two years and the fans on their feet as they witness the birth of a possible Aberdeen star.

Maguire said: “It was a great way to mark my first start with a good finish and a good performance and, hopefully, I can go on and build from here.

“I have been waiting patiently for a chance to start. I’ve been coming off the bench a lot and doing well, and I’ve been hoping it would come soon.

“The manager called me in yesterday and told me I would be starting wide left, and I thought he was kidding me on to begin with.

“It was a great present for me to get. I went back home after training, opened up my presents then called my mum and dad to tell them I was playing.

“My dad comes up for every game and it was great to have him here to see me score my first goal.”

Maguire said: “I could have had a couple more, but I was delighted with my goal and my performance.

“I have to keep playing at my best and give the manager a problem next week.

“After today I feel I have done well enough to keep my place in the team, but I will find out on Saturday.

“If I wasn’t a confident player I wouldn’t be able to play in front of a big crowd like I have, but Zander Diamond was doing his best to make me nervous this morning.

“I live in digs in the city, but I had my Christmas dinner at Zander and he was trying to put me off. When I had some toast, I felt sick. But once I got here, I was fine.”

Maguire was replaced by super sub Steve Lovell in 76 minutes in a move that was designed not only to save the youngsters legs after a thrilling performance but also to give the fans the chance to show their appreciation in the way of a standing ovation which was duly delivered.

Just as if to buck the trend of recent matches, Aberdeen had come out the trap flying and the injury hit away side had no response to the fast, accurate, passing and moving style of the men in red and they were two up in 9 minutes.

Nicholson latched on to a neat flick from Darren Mackie and delivered another clinical strike to pick up his third for the season to give the Dons a dream start. He fired in a left footed shot from the centre of the goalmouth into the bottom right of Smith’s goal from 12 yards and at this point it look as though Killie would be suffering a heavy defeat as Aberdeen totally controlled the match.

As it was, due to lack of maybe a little composure around the box and some luck the Dons would not add to their tally until the 86th minute but came close again through Miller who hit the bar and significantly Maguire who confidently took the free kicks around the box and came close a couple of times.

It’s testament to the Dons strength in depth they now have upfront that Maguire`s` successor in the match, Lovell, was able to notch his sides 3rd goal in the match and his 3rd in as many games, all from substitute, as he finished brilliantly from a Lee Miller effort which was only parried by ‘keeper Smith.

As predicted in the match preview to this game, the visitors would always be dangerous with Steven Naismith in the opposition and sadly for Aberdeen, who are looking to draw back some goal difference with Rangers, he was to give the traveling support a little comfort when his 6 yard left footed volley beat Langfield after Invincible’s headed knockdown.

The game will be remembered as the beginning of young Maguire’s career at Pittodrie and after the match the plaudits from past and present Aberdeen royalty came flooding in.

Assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl knows the qualities the youngster has and he commented, “We know what he is capable of and it was just a case of getting him in the team, which although Jimmy had a couple of choices, he decided to do in this game.

“He can play on the left, or the right and he has a great appetite for the game, along with confidence in his own ability.

“He will shoot from anywhere, try things and he is an exciting young player.

“Kids come along now again and you just know they have something, so it is just up to him how he handles it.

“He hasn’t done himself any harm in trying to stay in the team, but whether Jimmy wants to do something different because we are away at Dundee United in our next game, we will have to see.

“I keep on saying it takes more than ability to be a top player and you need something in your character to get a chance, but he has that and there is no reason why he can’t go on to have a great career.”

Former player and Dons Legend Jim Bett has watched the development of Maguire and thinks he has something special. He said: “I’ve played with lots of guys but I can’t remember anyone similar to him. He has excellent control, two good feet and can take opponents on.

“What impressed me is that for one so young he knew when to pass and when to keep possession. Also, he never gave the ball away.

“He’s a very direct player who did not overdo it. Fans want to see exciting play and he provided it. They took to him immediately and gave him a tremendous ovation when he was substituted.

“Over the years, Aberdeen have produced many good youngsters but he could prove the pick of the crop.

“The fans have been waiting for someone like him to arrive and this lad’s talent will bring them back. There is no doubt he’ll put bums on seats.

“It was a great first start for the club and his goal just topped it off. He knew exactly what he wanted to do.

In fact, the goal, which he took so clinically and coolly, set the standard for the whole game because Aberdeen were in complete control after he scored.

“He didn’t look at all nervous so Bett tips Do he’ll be even more confident in his next game. He seemed as if he’d been playing in the first team for years.

“He came on as a sub against Celtic last season and made two goals so he’s shown he is capable of making an impact.”

Bett has no doubt that the signing of Craig Brewster will fast-track Maguire’s rise to the top of the game.

e said: “Jimmy Calderwood has carefully nursed Maguire along, using him as a substitute and waiting for the right moment to put him on from the start, and the injury to Jamie Smith presented him with the chance.

Jimmy will know when to play him and when it’s time for a break, which is crucial in his development, but he must be delighted at how well he performed in his first major test.

“The signing of Brewster will speed Maguire’s progress. The big man has vast experience and will pass that on to the kid.

“Craig holds the ball up well and brings others into play and the youngster will be able to run off him.

I see Maguire’s breakthrough and Brewster’s arrival significantly strengthening Aberdeen’s bid to return to Europe.”

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