AT TIMES this match possessed all the charm and expressive range of a stuck needle on a broken record. The first half was a dull repetition of clearances and retreats from a Rangers defence which proved too solid for the lightweight home attacks to break them. The second and no less miserable 45 was, however, enough to keep the visitors atop the Premier League chart.
The decisive moment was a Craig Moore header 10 minutes from time. Perhaps it was the lack of Paul Gascoigne but there was a curious tranquillity about the action during the first period. Aberdeen were given generous space wide but progressed without urgency and failed to deliver crosses capable of unsettling Rangers' deep-lying centre-back three. Rangers seemed content to soak up and break, their strategy almost producing an opener when David Robertson sliced his shot after Ian Durrant had slipped him through.
Aberdeen's flurry came on the half-hour. Eion Jess picked up a clearance 20 yards out and with Rangers coming out for offside he mishit his shot. The ball skewed to Scott Booth who was able to loft wide of Andy Goram but against the bar. Seconds later, Stephen Glass managed only a weak header after Robertson's mishit clearance fell to him in front of Goram.
The second half began to drift in the manner of the first and no one on the field looked capable of kick-starting the action. It was left for the managers to provide the jump leads. Each made a double substitution just after the hour and the way Paul Bernard hared out to join the fray raised the home side's blood pressure. Although he dispatched several bone-rattling tackles, the pounds 1m signing was deployed wide on the right where he looked under-used. The match winner fell to a fellow substitute, Craig Moore, who found himself happier to be out of position. The Australian defender loped on in place of Gordon Durie up front where he became the focus of a series of long balls. In the 79th minute Stuart McCall curled in a free-kick and Moore headed in at the back post.
Aberdeen launched forward and could have scored several times. First Booth's shot brought a heroic sprawl from Goram, then Peter Heatherstone hit a wild volley over. Richard Gough had the last word, heading a Duncan Shearer effort off the line with a minute left.