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Church to strike in Aberdeen triumph over Hearts

Robbie Purves | April 7, 2016

Hearts v Aberdeen

  • Scottish Premier League
  • Friday, April 7th
  • Kick Off: 19:45 BST
  • Tynecastle, Edinburgh
  • Live on BT Sport 1

Dons chase Celts

Aberdeen travel to Edinburgh trailing leaders Celtic by just five points, and see the clash against third-placed Hearts as crucial to their title challenge.

Dons have won 21 of their 32 matches and four of their previous five this season, their last defeat was a 2-1 at Motherwell on March 19th. The league reaches week 33 this weekend and after this game the division will be split in two with six teams in each section proving Pittodrie’s players with the chance of still winning the Scottish Premiership. Coral have Aberdeen at 11/1 to lift the trophy this summer.

Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie (left) and Kairat Almaty's Mikhail Bakaev battle for the ball during the Europa League, Third Qualifying Round, Second Leg match at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen.

Hearts, meanwhile, sit comfortably third, thirteen points ahead St Johnstone. The Jambos have impressed since their promotion back to the top flight; manager Robbie Neilson, directer of football Craig Levein and owner Ann Budge deserve huge credit for their work in stabilising the Tynecastle team.

Aberdeen continue away form

Hearts are coming off two successive defeats and will look to snap the streak, however Dons possess the best away record in the last six games and are 6/5 to triumph in Edinburgh this Friday.

Aberdeen will be without goal-machine Adam Rooney who was in fine form before his injury, second to only Leigh Griffiths in the Scottish Premiership scoring leaderboard. The Irish forward has an impressive 19 strikes this season which is 35 per cent of Aberdeen’s total goal tally.

However, Dons manager Derek McInnes has faith in striker Simon Church. “You either feel sorry for yourself and have a victim’s mentality, thinking ‘Poor us’ or you see it as someone else’s opportunity, I’m delighted we’ve got Simon Church,” he said.

Simon Church of Wales celebrates his goal during the international friendly match at the Cardiff City Stadium. Photo credit should read: Philip Oldham/Sportimage via PA Images

Church has two in his last four appearances and is 11/2 to score first against Hearts.

Midfielder Kenny McLean insists “everyone has to step up and take a bit of responsibility” to provide the goals required in Rooney’s absence and they certain provided, netting three past Hamilton Academical last weekend.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes celebrates at the end of the Europa League First Qualifying Round, Second Leg, at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Strikes from Simon Church, Niall McGinn and Kenny McLean had them three up inside 35 minutes and Jonny Hayes dazzled with the confidence gained from making his Republic of Ireland debut last month.

Dons flew out the blocks in this fixture in September of last year and will hope to do the same this clash. They were clinical and rattled Hearts with their quick start. McInnes said: “It was a big performance from us that day and it will take another one like that to get the three points this time.”

Aberdeen have an unchanged squad while midfielder Barry Robson completes a two-match ban and Peter Pawlett recovers from a broken arm.

Hearts hit by illness

Vital duo Callum Paterson and Don Cowie face a race against time to feature on Friday after a training ground lockout. Paterson has been out since late February but looks set to be included in the matchday squad, while Cowie was injured in Hearts’ last match and has had his recovery halted by illness within the camp.

Jambos’ match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle was postponed on Tuesday because the squad were left decimated by illness. A bout of gastroenteritis affected 17 players and the entire squad was told to stay away from their Riccarton training base, leaving manager Neilson the almost impossible task of preparing his team for Friday.

Neilson said: “Everyone is fine. We shut down the training ground for two days and that allowed everyone to get over the virus and get some rest before the game on Friday night.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson shouts instructions during the Scottish Premiership at Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh.

In their last home game, Hearts embarrassingly lost 3-0 to St Johnstone, Jambos now need to win to keep their slim hopes of overtaking Friday’s foes alive but with limited preparation time, the Tynecastle team face as tough task.

If Aberdeen get the ball down and play the fast, attacking football they do so well, then the potentially sluggish Hearts team could be blown away. Jambos will also be without Nigerian international Juwon Oshaniwa and are 9/1 to lose 0-2.

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