Football: Dons in debt to Jess heroics

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The Independent Online
Aberdeen 2

Jess 2, 83

Dunfermline 1

Squires 81

Attendance: 10,293

EOIN JESS proved his actions are equally as persuasive as his words, with two goals which rescued Aberdeen's tattered reputation.

With the knives being sharpened for his manager, Alex Miller, Jess had publicly declared that it was time for his team-mates to move out of the comfort zone to push the Dons out of the drop zone. And the forward was as good as his word, curling in a decisive right- foot strike with six minutes left to erase the shock which Jamie Squires' equaliser for Dunfermline had bestowed on Pittodrie just seconds earlier.

Aberdeen have been in the red in every sense recently. Regarded as one of the best clubs in Europe in the mid-Eighties under Alex Ferguson, the only figures anyone has been talking about this season have been negative ones.

Last month the club announced a record loss of pounds 2.5m while on the pitch a bright start, which included a win over Celtic, has been submerged by a wretched run of 11 League games without a win to plunge them into second bottom place.

Inevitably, that has put Miller under increasing pressure and the general consensus was that if Aberdeen lost to the bottom club, Dunfermline, yesterday, he would be the fourth manager in six years to exit Pittodrie.

Much of the blame, though, lies with Miller's overpaid, under-performing players, such as Mike Newell and Craig Hignett. Hignett is desperate to return to England after only four months at Aberdeen, because of family problems, but the former Middlesbrough player has failed to live up to his pounds 8,000- a-week wages.

But it was another former Premiership salary, Jess, who halted the plunging interest in the Dons after just 60 seconds. The forward pounced after Newell's fine shot on the turn from 18 yards was only parried by the goalkeeper, Lee Butler, and Jess dived in for the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.

Hignett, possibly shamed by this, unveiled a rare moment of magic 10 minutes later with a 20-yard shot which crashed off the bar. Butler then atoned for his error by denying Hignett with a wonderful turn past the post. Dunfermline gradually came back into the game and Squires was unfortunate not to equalise before half-time.

Such is Aberdeen's current insecurity, the pursuit of a second goal contained an almost frenetic, nervous quality. Robbie Winters should have buried a 61st minute shot past Butler after Newell's knock down but he rushed his effort and sent it over the bar.

Eight minutes later, Hignett showed more poise as he profited from Butler's charge out of the area to clear from the rampaging Winters. Hignett pounced on the loose ball and floated a delicate lob towards the empty goal but it just floated wide of the upright.

The price was duly paid in the 83rd minute when Dunfermline equalised. Greg Shields delivered a fine cross which Squires ruthlessly turned past Jim Leighton.