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Duncan Shearer: Raith was one gamble too many for Stephen Glass

Dons boss Stephen Glass
Dons boss Stephen Glass

Stephen Glass chanced his luck for one game too many after watching his Aberdeen team crash out of the Premier Sports Cup at Raith Rovers on Sunday.

The Dons boss got away with making six changes at Livingston a week ago due to a mistake from the opposition goalkeeper in the dying seconds of the game.

I would have thought Stephen would have realised his good fortune but he clearly wanted to roll the dice again at Stark’s Park by making seven changes and it has cost his team a place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

The aspect Sunday’s line-up at Raith which has left me scratching my head is why Stephen, a former player at Pittodrie, someone who knows how important the cup competitions are, would then rest so many key players?

Let’s be honest here. The Scottish Premiership title is a two-horse race. No other team outwith Rangers or Celtic has won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Dons of 1985.

I don’t enjoy saying that but it is a fact. It is also a fact that for the other clubs in Scotland their best chance of silverware lies in the two domestic cup competitions.

Dons fans will be hurting at cup exit

Aberdeen fans crave a trip to Hampden. They want to see their team not only competing in finals for trophies but winning them.

That’s why 43,000 packed Celtic Park to watch the Dons beat Caley Thistle on penalties in 2014. It was the club’s first trophy in 19 years, since the 1995 team I played in with Stephen won the League Cup under Roy Aitken.

We’re now at seven years and counting since that fateful day against Inverness and it will be 2022 before the Scottish Cup gets underway for the Dons. Time continues to tick by and the sight of St Johnstone winning a cup double last season will only have made the Red Army even hungrier for cup glory for their club.

That’s why there is such a huge feeling of disappointment at seeing Aberdeen, through the actions of their manager and a poor second half display, throw one of those chances away at the first time of asking.

Stephen may point to the first half performance of his team as evidence he chose the right team but games last 90 minutes and in the second half the 11 on the pitch were overrun in every area by Raith Rovers.

There is risk in any game but this seems a needless gamble and one which has backfired.

Has Europe become more important?

Maybe I’m mistaken and the manager has been told to put all his eggs into the European football basket by his chairman Dave Cormack. With millions on offer for qualifying that money would certainly be helpful after a hugely challenging 18 months due to Covid-19.

But we’re only weeks into the new season and it still seems to have been a risk which did not need to be taken when Dons fans have trophies at the top of their list of priorities.

Lewis Ferguson (centre).

You cannot tell me the likes of Lewis Ferguson, a player who played every minute when fit for his last manager, was looking for a rest on the bench three weeks into the new campaign.

With such a busy schedule Aberdeen’s week will be game, recover, shape work, opposition analysis and game before focus turns to the next match. Players much prefer that to hard training.

We all know Raith Rovers had a good season last year and it doesn’t take a genius to see that they had the potential to cause problems.

Aberdeen were confident, assured and clinical in the first half but when I reflect on the game I don’t recall a single effort on target other than Jay Emmanuel Thomas’ fabulous first goal for the club.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas opened his account in style at Raith Rovers.

At half-time I had the impression the Dons wanted to keep possession and invite Raith to come at them and then try to exploit the spaces but when Raith did find that higher gear after the break Aberdeen just couldn’t handle it.

They lost that first half composure and despite making five substitutions the manager watched his side struggle to get back into the game.

There was a late flurry but at no time did it look like an equaliser for Aberdeen was coming, and to add injury to the insult of going out of the cup the Dons are now heading to Azerbaijan for a vital Conference League game with huge doubts over Ryan Hedges and Jonny Hayes.

Hedges left on crutches while Hayes was wheeled away on a stretcher. It would be a surprise if either player is fit to travel to face Qarabag.

While we’re at it, I’d urge Stephen to think long and hard about making wholesale changes again for the trip to Hearts on Sunday. Tynecastle is difficult enough with your strongest team available.