Aberdeen secure European place as Graeme Shinnie brace helps see off St Mirren
Aberdeen sealed third spot in the cinch Premiership and a place in Europe next season as their 3-0 win over 10-man St Mirren allied to Hearts’ draw at Ibrox put the Dons four points clear of the Edinburgh side.
On-loan midfield duo Leighton Clarkson and Graeme Shinnie had the Dons on easy street with first-half goals either side of Thierry Small’s red card, and Shinnie added a third early in the second half.
The Dons will now be guaranteed European group stage football if Celtic beat Inverness in the Scottish Cup final.
After a cagey opening, Clarkson opened the scoring from 20 yards as he curled an unstoppable free-kick past Trevor Carson at the near post after Greg Kiltie had bundled over Jonny Hayes.
Much of the play was in midfield, but St Mirren’s Curtis Main and Alex Gogic both went close with headers in the space of 60 seconds midway through the first half.
But the Buddies were reduced to 10 men on the half-hour as Small’s wild challenge on Dons striker Bojan Miovski left the North Macedonian striker stricken, and after a yellow card was initially brandished by referee Don Robertson, a VAR check saw that upgraded to red.
Aberdeen were undeterred by Miovski’s injury and after Carson parried a Luis Lopes strike, Ross McCrorie just failed to get enough on the follow-up to beat the St Mirren keeper.
But they doubled their lead two minutes from the break as Carson inexplicably scooped a Marley Watkins cross into the air and Shinnie gratefully accepted the gift to nod home from close range.
Shinnie was at it again four minutes after the interval as he netted his second, a rare right-footed strike after Ylber Ramadani’s cutback, but again Carson should have done much better in his attempt to block the effort.
St Mirren threatened from a set-piece of their own 20 yards out but Ryan Strain’s whipped effort was well held by Kelle Roos.
And Roos again stood firm after a mix-up between Angus MacDonald and Liam Scales let Main in behind the Dons defence, but there was no way past the Dutch goalkeeper.
Aberdeen were getting lax at the back against the 10 men and with 15 minutes left Roos was again called into action, this time to beat away Mark O’Hara’s curled effort from the edge of the area.
Watkins and McCrorie passed up late chances to add a fourth for the Dons, but the hosts sent their fans home happy with European football next season guaranteed.