Aberdeen caretaker boss Peter Leven hailed his side’s “character” but admitted their performance left plenty of room for improvement, despite a vital 2-1 cinch Premiership victory over relegation rivals Ross County.

The victory, secured thanks to goals from Bojan Miovski and Jamie McGrath, either side of Simon Murray’s header for County, moved the Dons six points clear of their opponents, who remain second bottom.

Leven said: “I’m delighted with the three points and the result, but the performance could have been better.

“I thought we started well and then County came into it a bit. I always knew we had the players who could get us the next goal.

“At half time I told them to relax on the ball. They looked nervous at times and they were trying the hard pass when the simple pass was on. They were better in the second half and I thought the subs really impacted the game.

“When Duk is like that, he’s a handful for anybody with his power and pace. He did really well for the second goal.

“The character the boys showed was brilliant. They were fighting for everything and the boys were focused.”

The Staggies are also under interim management and Don Cowie admitted this match was a missed opportunity for his side.

He said: “I thought it was a really good performance and the team responded really well to a poor start.

“The team were perhaps a little bit spooked for 10 minutes, but the response was excellent and we deserved to go in level.

“I felt that we could step on and win it after that, but if you can’t win it you have to make sure you don’t lose it and we have to learn from that.

“Every game you play is an opportunity and we’ve come away with nothing, so there’s a natural disappointment there, but I’m so proud of the team and the way we’ve played.

“It’s a team that’s working hard for each other and there’s real quality in there as well, but we have to build on that.

“We’ve shown over the last seven or eight games that we can be dangerous, but we need to start picking up points away from home and it’s about those fine lines.”

Aberdeen recorded a second straight cinch Premiership victory with a 2-1 home win over Ross County to move six points clear of their visitors, who remain in the relegation play-off place.

Bojan Miovski and Jamie McGrath struck at either end of the match to give their side the points, although the defending that lead to Simon Murray’s 17th goal of the season exposed their soft underbelly.

The home side were quick out of the traps, with Miovski testing George Wickens just two minutes in, only for a debatable offside flag to render the goalkeeper’s save moot.

But the visitors did not heed the warning and were behind after after minutes.

This time it was Junior Hoilett who slid the pass down the side of the County defence and, although Miovski seemed to have been forced wide, his prodded effort trundled through a ruck of players and across the line, despite the despairing late lunge of Loick Ayina.

Perhaps the goal gave Don Cowie’s men a wake-up call as they began to edge back into the game.

Josh Reid was denied a leveller when Murray played him in, only for the wing-back to be foiled by Kelle Roos’ low save.

But Murray brought his side level, first winning a corner off Stefan Gartenmann before heading home unchallenged at the back post from Yan Dhanda’s whipped delivery.

Aberdeen’s bright start was now a distant memory and, while Michee Efete was called offside when he blasted over from close range, it was another warning for the home side.

There were signs of life for the Dons early in the second half, but the Staggies could have been in front in the 65th minute as Dhanda’s powerful drive forced Roos to push over.

The introduction of Duk brought some fresh impetus to the hosts’ attack and he charged on to a long ball that drew Wickens out of his area.

The latter took out the former and the keeper was perhaps lucky to escape with a yellow card after a VAR check.

Leighton Clarkson whipped the resulting free-kick inches wide of an upright.

Duk was involved again when his side took the lead after 78 minutes. His quick spin in the area took out his man and he laid the ball on a plate for McGrath to turn home from six yards.

It could have been three for Aberdeen when Dante Polvara’s vicious half-volley cannoned back off the bar late on and, although they survived a late VAR check for Gartnemann’s challenge on Murray, it was ultimately job done for the Pittodrie men.

Aberdeen’s interim manager Neil Warnock insisted his side must cut out the sloppy defensive errors that see him still on the hunt for a first cinch Premiership win following a 2-2 draw with Hibernian.

The Dons fell behind after Martin Boyle rounded Kelle Roos after just 12 minutes, but were quickly level through Nicky Devlin.

Jamie McGrath put the home side in front just after the break, but sub Emiliano Marcondes turned home from close range to earn his side a share of the points.

And Warnock said afterwards: “It’s frustrating. We’ve had 26 attempts on goal but given two goals away like Sunday league.

“I think that’s the best we’ve played since I’ve come here, and we just missed a little bit of the rub of the green.

“We played some good stuff at times, but we needed a clean sheet to win the game. I bet Hibs can’t believe the goals we’ve given them – it’s elementary defending, and it’s disappointing after the effort we put into the game.”

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery was handed his professional debut by Warnock during a spell at Sheffield United, and he felt his side could have got one over on his former boss.

He said: “I think we came here with a game plan, and we scored early but we’re disappointed with the goals we lost. It was a competitive game on a difficult pitch.

“I thought we probably should have had a penalty for handball in the first half, and in the second we conceded another poor goal.

“I thought we showed great character to level, and [Emiliano] Marcondes is a top quality player, and I thought his finish was quality.

“We had chances to win the game, as did Aberdeen. We could have taken three points but it wasn’t to be so we’ll take a point at a difficult place to come.”

Aberdeen’s interim manager Neil Warnock is still seeking a first cinch Premiership win after his side could only draw 2-2 with a resilient Hibernian at Pittodrie.

The visitors led through Martin Boyle, but Nicky Devlin quickly restored parity before the Dons went in front early in the second half thanks to Jamie McGrath.

However, a leveller from substitute Emiliano Marcondes ensured the sides shared the points.

The evergreen Boyle made an early impact, sliding past Kelle Roos at the near post after good work from Myziane Maolida had created the chance.

The Edinburgh side’s lead did not last long, as David Marshall could only parry Bojan Miovski’s 10-yard volley and Devlin threw himself at the loose ball to turn home a quickfire leveller.

Aberdeen would be the more threatening side, and Marshall had to look smart to deny Jack MacKenzie midway through the first half, and the former Scotland man then had to palm away a Connor Barron corner from under his own crossbar.

Miovski passed up a gilt-edged chance to put the Dons in front just before the half-hour as he ran onto Duk’s through ball, but in electing to lift over Marshall rather than round the veteran keeper, he allowed a save.

The home side survived a penalty scare as VAR official David Dickinson took a look at a potential handball from an Elie Youan cross, but at the other end they were denied a second goal by the woodwork, as Leighton Clarkson slid in to meet Miovski’s cutback, the ball coming back off the crossbar.

They would get their noses in front after 51 minutes, as Duk left Lewis Miller for dead, and put a ball into the box, where Clarkson found McGrath, and the Irishman passed into the net after getting the ball out from between his feet.

It looked like they might extend their lead when Miovski ran onto a ball over the top three minutes later, but Marshall was off his line quickly to avert the danger.

A flying save from Marshall denied Duk, and the keeper held a Graeme Shinnie volley before Hibs drew level in controversial circumstances.

Play went on after what seemed an offside on the left, only for assistant referee David Roome to raise his flag after substitute Marcondes turned home Joe Newell’s cutback. A lengthy VAR review followed, before eventually the goal was given.

Aberdeen threw on new signing Junior Hoilett for the last 10 minutes, and his first involvement set up an opportunity for Miovski, only for Marshall to deny the Dons top scorer. That would be the keeper’s last involvement as he picked up an injury that saw him replaced by Jojo Wollacott.

Despite 10 minutes of injury time, neither side could find a winner, though Miovski should have done better when the ball fell to him at the back post deep in stoppage time.

David Keltjens scored on his debut to earn St Johnstone a 1-1 draw against Aberdeen after his skipper Liam Gordon twice fell foul of dubious game-changing VAR decisions.

Gordon was penalised for a foul on Jamie McGrath after Graham Carey thought he had volleyed Saints in front in the 49th minute.

And the defender was again adjudged to have committed a foul after John Beaton was called to his monitor by video assistant Steven Kirkland for a second time to review an incident in the other box.

Bojan Miovski took advantage as he converted the 62nd-minute penalty.

McGrath had already cleared the ball towards Carey when he was caught on the foot by Gordon and the penalty incident was similar. The centre-back was ruled to have caught Slobodan Rubezic as both attempted to meet Connor Barron’s corner.

Neither foul seemed clear and obvious, certainly to the vast majority of the 3,472 fans inside McDiarmid Park.

But Saints refused to fall victim to a hard-luck story and Keltjens took advantage of some poor goalkeeping from Kelle Roos to head home in the 78th minute as Aberdeen missed the chance to move into the cinch Premiership top six.

Israel international Keltjens came in at right wing-back as St Johnstone manager Craig Levein made five changes following his side’s Scottish Cup defeat by Airdrie.

Top goalscorer Nicky Clark dropped out with a minor groin injury to leave St Johnstone’s starting 11 with only four league goals between them this season.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson named the same team for the third game running as he looked for a hat-trick of wins for the first time since September.

The Dons made the better start and Saints goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov pulled off a good stop from Dante Polvara’s powerful strike.

But the remainder of the first half was completely lacking in incidents of note as both teams struggled to make inroads.

The game livened up in the second half, with Carey denied the opener when his well-struck volley beat Roos at his near post after the midfielder’s free-kick eventually came back to him.

The chances were suddenly flowing at both ends. Matt Smith twice set up Diallang Jaiyesimi but the striker was denied by a good stop from Roos before dragging a shot wide.

Graeme Shinnie forced a save from Mitov following a bursting run and the Bulgarian tipped over Nicky Devlin’s deep cross.

More VAR confusion followed for the fans before Miovski netted his 17th goal of the season.

The writing was on the wall for Saints given Aberdeen had recorded 1-0 wins in four of their previous five visits to Perth.

But Levein’s side showed fight and Keltjens had a header saved before beating Roos to Carey’s cross to head into the empty net.

Rubezic and Carey were both booked for diving in the box before an exciting eight minutes of stoppage time.

Aberdeen sub Ester Sokler saw a good headed chance saved by Mitov before Max Kucheriavyi hit the outside of the post at the other end.

Jamie McGrath has targeted a positive finish to Aberdeen’s doomed Europa Conference League campaign as they prepare for the penultimate game against HJK in Finland.

The Dons are third in Group G with two points from four games, with Eintracht Frankfurt and PAOK uncatchable in the top two places.

In October a Bojan Miovski header gave Barry Robson’s side a draw after Bojan Radulovic had put the Finnish champions ahead but McGrath is looking for three points in the return game in freezing Helsinki on Thursday and in their final game against Eintracht Frankfurt at Pittodrie on December 14.

The Republic of Ireland midfielder told RedTV: “Of course you want to finish off the group with two wins if possible.

“I know they are out of season but I’m sure they’ll be fresh and ready to go and it’s going to be a very tricky game.

“We’ve seen what they could bring in our place. So they’re a good side. They have a lot of good players, a good few internationals as well.

“So we’re going  to have to be our best to take three points but hopefully we can do that.”

McGrath, who signed from Wigan in the summer, has enjoyed his whole European experience as a Don so far, despite Europa League disappointment earlier in the season when they were knocked out of the qualifiers by BK Hacken, drawing 2-2 in Sweden before losing 3-1 at Pittodrie.

He said: “It has been class to be fair. First game was Hacken away and it was brilliant.

“Obviously disappointed not to go through but the atmosphere at Pittodrie, the first home (European) game, was unbelievable.

“And then the big nights in the group stages, PAOK away and home and Frankfurt away, it was unbelievable the support we brought there, as was the support in Athens, it was phenomenal.

“Those are the nights that live in your memory when you retire, playing in front of big crowds and big European games that’s where you want to be as a player. So we’re very privileged to be able to do that.

“At Frankfurt we went there and went toe-to-toe with them away from home and that gives a great belief, especially for the younger lads.

“We have shown some really good performances but we are disappointed not to be with a chance of qualifying.”

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson was “gutted but so proud” after his side’s Europa Conference League qualification hopes ended with a 2-2 draw against PAOK in Greece.

Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes hit an early opener for the Dons who later quickly fought back from 2-1 down when Jamie McGrath scored a 30-yard free-kick in the 70th minute.

The Dons went for the win by putting on top goalscorer Bojan Miovski to join Duk up front but the home side finished the stronger team and both they and Eintracht Frankfurt sealed their place in the knockout stages.

The Dons have two points after suffering a narrow defeat in Germany and losing a two-goal lead to PAOK last time out as well as drawing with HJK Helsinki in an eventful encounter.

Robson told RedTV after the game in Thessaloniki: “A difficult one to take. You can see how good a side they are – they beat Olympiacos 4-2 at the weekend, they beat Eintracht Frankfurt here.

“We went toe to toe with them and gave them a real go and we have drawn 2-2. The home game we were 2-0 up after 78 minutes. I think Eintracht Frankfurt away was one of our best performances you will see in Europe for a long, long time.

“I sit here so frustrated and disappointed because we deserve to have more points on the board.

“We have been outstanding against some brilliant teams. If you go back to the Hacken games, Helsinki when we missed the chances, Eintracht Frankfurt away, two PAOK games, we have been outstanding. Little, wee details cost us.

“I am so gutted but I am so proud of my players. We have come into Europe and had a real go and that’s what I wanted.”

Robson believes his side will be better for the experience.

“It’s all about learning,” the former Celtic midfielder said. “I did it myself as a player, in every European game you get better, better and better.

“This is new to a lot of them, and these are big group games against
proper, proper teams.

“We passed the ball really well for bits in the first half and you know, with the quality they have, we are going to have to defend. We did that.

“I thought we might have carried a bit more of a threat but in the end we had a go, as hard as it was because of how heavy-legged the players were.

“I am so proud, and so proud of those fans. They were absolutely bouncing and they could see we tried to give them a win.”

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson welcomed a return to form ahead of their Viaplay Cup semi-final after watching his side beat Motherwell 4-2 at Fir Park.

Jamie McGrath hit a double and Nicky Devlin and substitute Luis Lopes were also on target as the Dons played the ball around with confidence, especially after the Irish midfielder’s first goal in the 26th minute.

Late goals from Motherwell substitutes Theo Bair and Mika Biereth added a touch of respectability to the score from the home team’s point of view but they failed to take the shine off the night for the Dons, who face Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday evening.

“We were good all over the pitch, passed it really well,” said Robson, whose side had lost 2-0 at Kilmarnock on Sunday.

“Credit to Motherwell, it’s a great pitch, night and day from playing at the weekend. That helped us a bit as well.

“We passed it really well, brought speed to the game, transitioned really well and thoroughly deserved it.”

The Dons had not won in their previous four matches.

Robson said: “They are all big wins. We are sixth, have a game in hand, we are in a semi-final, we are fighting it out in Europe against some huge European teams. We just need to keep going.”

Motherwell have now not won in six games and conceded some soft goals throughout as manager Stuart Kettlewell experienced his side’s worst performance of his reign.

Kettlewell said: “We played poorly and got everything we deserved. In terms of our discipline and decision-making, having a real soft centre, our organisation.

“I know there is always an intent to score, but what we did when I first came in, we started from the back end of the pitch and made sure we had a real stability, not just from the guys in the back line but the midfielders and forwards too.

“That’s not working just now – we have conceded seven goals in two home games. We are not rectifying situations when we lose the ball.

“There’s a chink in the armour at this minute and sometimes it can come from decision-making more than ability. That was a big aspect again – we have put ourselves into poor positions and made bad choices.

“There isn’t a magic wand to fix that side of it but we have to remain together. We are going through a bad spell – it was undoubtedly our worst game since I took charge in February.”

Jamie McGrath hit a double as a 4-2 victory at Motherwell gave Aberdeen a much-needed morale boost ahead of the Viaplay Cup semi-finals.

McGrath scored in each half with Nicky Devlin and substitute Luis Lopes also on target as the Dons claimed their first win in five matches to send them to Hampden on a high when they face Hibernian on Saturday.

Motherwell conceded some sloppy goals and never troubled Aberdeen keeper Kelle Roos until substitute Theo Bair netted his first goal at Fir Park in the 79th minute.

Mika Biereth scored his third goal in three cinch Premiership appearances off the bench in stoppage time but the Steelmen have now taken just one point from six games.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson had taken responsibility for Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Kilmarnock, admitting he should have made more than one change to his starting line-up. He made two at Fir Park as Dante Polvara and Leighton Clarkson came in.

Motherwell had Lennon Miller back from suspension while Conor Wilkinson made his first start since August.

Both sides had some decent spells of possession without threatening, until some hesitant defending gifted the visitors the lead in the 26th minute.

Dan Casey failed to get a decent connection on his header following Devlin’s cross and Paul McGinn was slow to react as McGrath got in behind to nod home at the far post.

The goal seemed to have a major and contrasting impact on each team. Aberdeen looked increasingly confident on the ball while Motherwell were struggling to string two passes together and the crowd started to get on their backs.

A slack pass from McGinn set up Polvara to shoot straight at Liam Kelly before the away team doubled their lead in the 44th minute.

McGrath’s pass put Bojan Miovski through and, although McGinn made a last-ditch tackle, Devlin was by far the quickest to follow up and slotted home.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell made two half-time changes, bringing on Biereth and Calum Butcher, who was making his first appearance since suffering a foot injury in May.

The start of the second half was delayed by about seven minutes by a technical issue with the VAR equipment.

The home fans soon lost their patience with referee Colin Steven as he booked four of their players in the space of eight minutes and waved away several appeals for Motherwell free-kicks – Biereth’s yellow card came for a show of dissent.

McGrath had a header saved before adding to his tally in the 68th minute after another goal-saving challenge fell for the Dons.

Casey this time slid in to nick the ball off Miovski’s feet and McGrath emerged with it as Kelly hesitated to pick up, before the Irishman found the net. The goalkeeper was booked for dissent as he claimed for an infringement.

Kelly was well beaten six minutes later when he came for Ryan Duncan’s corner as Lopes headed into the empty net.

Bair soon curled the ball home from 22 yards with Roos slow to get down at his near post.

The Canadian missed a decent chance from Biereth’s driven cross before the Dane slotted home following a cross.

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