It is not often games between Aberdeen and Rangers can be viewed as secondary to importance of events off the field, but that was the case as a surreal and unsettling saga nears its conclusion.
For more than a month Dons fans have had to read and listen to relentless discussion and debate about their manager’s future with the spectre of rivals Rangers looming large on the horizon.
Dons chairman Stewart Milne tried to end the speculation once and for all more than a week ago by stating his manager saw his future at Pittodrie. McInnes backed his chairman to the full.
But the Rangers link has refused to go away and it seems an approach is imminent. In some ways it will be a relief to all involved as there is no doubt Rangers’ search for Pedro Caixinha’s successor has created more than ripple of unrest at Aberdeen.
How else can you explain three defeats in the last five games? Four points from 15 is damning by recent Aberdeen standards and the sooner this sorry affair is brought to a close the better for all concerned.
Ibrox has always been a tough venue for the Dons but the meek fashion in which they lost 3-0 to the Light Blues last midweek was telling.
The timing of it all is horrible, with the Dons slipping to another defeat yesterday and surrendering second place to Rangers in the process. Losing their manager, too, would be rubbing salt in the wounds.
After Aberdeen’s dismal first-half showing at Ibrox on Wednesday, a far more aggressive Dons started at Pittodrie and referee Willie Collum was kept busy in the frantic opening exchanges.
Josh Windass was booked for going down in the box under no contact from Joe Lewis as he went past the Aberdeen goalkeeper before former Dons captain Ryan Jack was given a lecture for a trip on his former team-mate Graeme Shinnie.
The Aberdeen captain then followed Windass into the referee’s notebook for a foul on Gers full back James Tavernier. Shinnie’s intent was clear; stop the Rangers full back from pushing forward like he did to great effect just days earlier.
However, in conceding a free kick on the halfway line the Dons then defended it terribly with Declan John’s angled ball somehow reaching the box without an Aberdeen player getting near Danny Wilson and the defender rose unchallenged to beat Lewis with a looping header.
There was a look of bewilderment among the Dons defence and with good reason as the failure of any player to go and challenge for the ball was astounding.
The goal settled the visitors, who could scarcely believe their luck, and they came close to doubling their lead with Lewis denying Windass with a fine one-handed save.
Aberdeen huffed and puffed in their attempts to get back into the game but they reached the break without testing Wes Foderingham in the Gers goal, although they did almost draw level in the final minute of the first half when Andy Considine saw his header hit the bar.
Lewis was called into action again at the start of the second half as he made another great save to deny Kenny Miller but the visitors found themselves reduced to 10 men as Jack was shown a straight red.
The decision was spot on, too, with the former Don catching Stevie May above the ankle with a reckless challenge on the halfway line. Jack departed and was soon followed by May, who was unable to continue.Aberdeen’s hopes of making the extra man count, however, were sunk as substitute Daniel Candeias crossed for Windass, who sidefooted the ball past Lewis from six yards.
Dons substitute Frank Ross reduced the arrears with a stunning 25-yard free kick to set up a thrilling final 25 minutes but the home side could not force an equaliser.