Ross County 2 Aberdeen 2 as ten-man Dons condemn Staggies to relegation play-off

Ester Sokler and Jamie McGrath (centre) lead the celebrations after going 2-1 up in Dingwall
Ester Sokler and Jamie McGrath (centre) lead the celebrations after going 2-1 up in Dingwall -Credit:SNS Group

Aberdeen ended their Premiership campaign with a 2-2 draw against Ross County as the ten-man Dons condemned the hosts to the relegation play-off spot.

The Staggies needed to win to avoid finish 11th while Peter Leven's Reds looked to keep up their impressive run of form and give the fans something to celebrate with one last victory.

But despite goals from Ester Sokler and Jamie McGrath, a red card for Angus MacDonald hampered the side and Simon Murray and Yan Dhanda gave County the fighting chance they craved.

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In the end however there was nothing to split the two, with the result in Dingwall meaning St Johnstone survive in the top flight after their victory against Motherwell.

A scrappy start saw Sokler hit the deck after a swinging challenge from Jack Baldwin, with Connor Barron - potentially playing his final game for Aberdeen - sending in the free-kick before Leighton Clarkson saw his effort saved by Ross Laidlaw.

Kelle Roos was then called into action, as Simon Murray sent Jordan White through, but Roos was able to blocked the flicked effort, with nerves around the stadium starting to sink in.

Then came the opener, with Murray striking across Roos' net after bouncing the ball over Barron to beat the Dutchman for his 20th goal of the Premiership season.

Jubilant Aberdeen fans celebrate after McGrath's goal to make it 2-1
Jubilant Aberdeen fans celebrate after McGrath's goal to make it 2-1 -Credit:SNS Group

It was the lifeline they craved, and saw the Reds go behind for the second game in a row having had to overturn the one-goal deficit against Livingston in midweek.

That didn't silence the Red Army however, who were making the most of their final away day of the season, and Junior Hoilett soon gave them another reason to cheer as he tested Laidlaw from a free-kick in their first real attack since falling behind.

Ross County were doing their bit to avoid the play-off and so were St Johnstone down in Motherwell, but an Aberdeen goal would suddenly send fears right through the Staggies fanbase.

Baldwin was booked for bundling over Graeme Shinnie, and Clarkson's free-kick was then saved by Baldwin, and the former Liverpool midfielder's earlier attempt was also called back by the referee with Murray booked for dissent.

Clarkson then attempted to beat County keeper Laidlaw with the outside of his right boot, but his touch was enough to avoid any danger.

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Then came the breakthrough. Aberdeen were awarded a corner which was only half cleared, allowing Barron on a mazy run before teeing up Sokler to nod home from close range.

A brilliant goal that pulled the Dons level, and gave Don Cowie and his players great concern, with St Johnstone going 2-0 up and County now level.

The hosts had the game where they wanted it, but Aberdeen were not looking to end the campaign on defeat and fought their way back into it, heading into the break level in Dingwall.

That determination to end on a high was on show from the restart, and after a close call from Connor Randall, Aberdeen pressed the hosts with Hoilett breaking free with the ball to fire a cross into Jamie McGrath.

The Irishman fired home, and the deficit was overturned, leaving County in the position they had been so desperate to avoid, and it nearly went from bad to worse for Cowie and his men.

Angus MacDonald fumes as he is sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity
Angus MacDonald fumes as he is sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity -Credit:SNS Group

Sokler tapped in Hoilett's rebounded shot from the post, but VAR caught the offside and disallowed the goal, with Leven's Reds kicking into gear just like they did against Livingston looking to put the game to bed.

Things quickly went wrong for Aberdeen however. White got the wrong side of Angus MacDonald and was bundled over by the Aberdeen defender.

Ross County were awarded a penalty, and MacDonald was sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, and after a lengthy delay as VAR checked both the red card and the penalty, both decisions stood.

Up stepped Hearts-bound Yan Dhanda who smashed the ball beyond Roos to level the tie, and County suddenly had an edge about them knowing only a win would keep them safe from the relegation play-off.

Murray saw his next attempt saved well by Roos, but the loose ball landed with Will Nightingale who could only watch in devastation as his strike smashed the crossbar.

Yan Dhanda gave his side hope after equalising in the second-half
Yan Dhanda gave his side hope after equalising in the second-half -Credit:SNS Group

County fans were giving it their all going into the final 10 minutes looking to will their side on to that precious winning goal, while Aberdeen looked to deny the hosts one of the all time great escapes.

Frustrated Staggies fans were not getting the ending they craved however, as Aberdeen hung on heading into injury time, with St Johnstone still winning 2-0 at Motherwell.

Eli King's ambitious long-range shot was off target, and Cowie rolled the dice once last time sending on Eamonn Brophy for George Harmon in search of a late winner.

Nine minutes were added on, and Dhanda's free-kick cleared the wall before being gathered by Roos, with all eyes firmly on Dingwall with St Johnstone on course to victory.

Dhanda's next free-kick was then headed on by Nightingale, but once again he could only hit the woodwork as agonising groans rippled around the ground from the Staggies fans.

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A corner to County fell to Jordan White but he couldn't keep his effort down, and the news soon filtered through St Johnstone had won 2-1 at Fir Park.

One last chance saw Roos gather with ease, and with that 100 minutes later, it ended all square in Dingwall, with Ross County into the relegation play-off for another year.

They will now face Raith Rovers in their bid to survive in the top flight, but for Aberdeen they have to settle for a point in an ending they had hoped would have been slightly better given recent form.

Leven's run as caretaker manager is done, and the next time the Dons are in action it will be Jimmy Thelin in the dugout, with all focus firmly switched to starting the new campaign in fine fashion under the Swede.