John Souttar became Dundee United's youngest-ever player at 16 years and 99 days as the defender made his debut in a thrilling draw away to Aberdeen.

The Dons were rewarded for early dominance with Scott Vernon firing the opener from 10 yards after 11 minutes.

Gavin Gunning forced in a close-range reply nine minutes later and Dons goalkeeper Jamie Langfield deflected a Johnny Russell cross into his own net.

But Niall McGinn superb curling second-half free-kick secured a draw.

Souttar had been handed a place in a makeshift defence along with striker Jon Daly and the returning Sean Dillon in the absence of the suspended Brian McLean and absent Keith Watson.

Jon Daly and Gavin Gunning celebrate for United at Pittodrie

Jon Daly and Gavin Gunning celebrate for United at Pittodrie

And the visitors were immediately under pressure as returning Dons duo Russell Anderson and Ryan Fraser combined to create the first opening.

Captain Anderson, a replacement for the injured Andrew Considine, should have done better than head the winger's corner over the crossbar from close range.

Fit-again Fraser, who was preferred to Jamie Masson in midfield, was showing the form that has led to him being linked with a January move from Pittodrie and soon after set up the opening goal.

The teenager cut the ball back from the bye-line after behind found by Cammy Smith following a clever run behind United's static defence and Vernon swept the ball into the net under goalkeeper Radoslav Cierzniak from eight yards.

Aberdeen went close to extending their lead after a mistake by Souttar allowed McGinn to turn Gunning inside out before firing a powerful 14-yard drive that Cierzniak did well to turn on to the crossbar.

Fraser's attempt to head home the rebound was deflected clear and a relieved United, for whom Richie Ryan had started in midfield in place of Mark Millar, started to work their way back into the game.

Yet it was somewhat against the run of play when Gunning stooped low to head the equaliser over the line from close range after Daly's bobbling shot was initially cleared off the line by Vernon.

Encouraged further by that, United were now playing their part fully in an even, exciting game and Russell should have at least found the target from 15 yards after being put clear by a clever Willo Flood chip, but the United striker sent his drive high into the stand.

United did creep ahead when Russell's low cross was missed by the in-rushing Flood at the front post and Langfield allowed the ball to slip through his arms and legs for a bizarre own goal.

McGinn and Clark Robertson both threatened from long range as an indignant Aberdeen responded.

However, the home side almost contributed to their own downfall again early after the break when defender Joe Shaughnessy's mis-kicked clearance struck his own crossbar.

The Dons survived that scare and were soon level when McGinn curled a beautiful 18-yard free-kick into the top corner of the United net with goalkeeper Cierzniak left motionless.

Action was now swinging from end to end and Stuart Armstrong broke clear to fire a low drive off the legs of Dons goalkeeper Langfield and Gunning had claims for a penalty waved away as he headed wide at a corner.

McGinn went close with a carbon copy of his earlier goal, but this time Cierzniak was close enough to save on the line before the Dons striker squandered two late half chances to win all three points.

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