Aberdeen’s 1-0 loss to St Mirren will have been a real disappointment for Derek McInnes and his team in just the second league game.
They’d battled to a brilliant win against Hearts in the Premiership opener at Pittodrie last weekend and, in spite of the 2-0 loss in Europa League qualifying to Rijeka in midweek, there was a real sense of optimism around.
That morale-boosting win against Hearts, combined with the wins against RoPS Rovaniemi and Chikhura Sachkhere in Europe showed the strength of the current Reds squad.
In theory, it was a good idea for the manager to make some changes for the visit to the Simple Digital Arena.
The players have been in action Thursday and Sunday for a few weeks and there’s a squad, so the same 11 isn’t run into the ground.
Of course, top scorer Sam Cosgrove dropping out for Curtis Main to make his first start was necessitated by an injury, but Scott Wright and Connor McLennan are talented boys, while Zak Vyner was brought in on loan from Bristol City to provide depth at centre and right-back.
The likes of Jon Gallagher, Niall McGinn and Shay Logan, who made a mistake to give away a penalty in Croatia, have seen a lot of action thus far and with a huge game on Thursday, it was sensible to keep them fresh.
Against Saints, the early goal which the home side scored on the counter attack was a body blow.
The team were automatically on the back foot in difficult, wet conditions, after Saints’ rapid counter-attacking opener.
Under the circumstances, the Dons just couldn’t seem to get their attacking play as slick as they’ve shown it can be in European action against RoPS and Chikhura – teams they put to the sword at Pittodrie.
What was obvious is Main, who has been brought in as back-up to main man Cosgrove, needs time to get up to speed.
He didn’t look sharp. I’m sure he’s fit enough, but he hasn’t played enough yet to be expected to go in and be at 100% straight away. He’s shown at Motherwell he can create chances for others as well as scoring, so it’ll come.
It also didn’t happen for the other players who came in.
McLennan showed in his solid run in the team last season he is capable of being a first-choice winger for Aberdeen when he’s in full flow.
He has been out injured, so is another who needs minutes under his belt.
Wright, after being out on loan at relegated Dundee in the second half of last term, couldn’t quite get things to click against the Saints.
This a season where there is plenty of competition behind the lone striker and out wide. Wright needs to take his opportunities when they come along by chipping in with assists or goals, like he did against Chikhura.
All this being said, McInnes’ team could easily have taken a point back from the Simple Digital Arena.
As they found a higher gear after the break and upped the pressure, Ryan Hedges’ cross clearly struck the arm of Ryan Flynn and referee Steven McLean should have pointed to the penalty spot.
The Dons could have then left with a point or more.