As cup final preparations go, this was as miserable as it gets for Aberdeen as they succumbed to Motherwell with alarming ease at Fir Park.
Saturday was a day to forget for the Dons as they gift-wrapped the points for the Steelmen. To be blunt, the Dons simply didn’t turn up. They cannot afford a repeat when they take on Celtic in the Betfred League Cup final at Hampden on Sunday.
It had all started so promisingly for Derek McInnes’s side. But from the moment Aberdeen gave Motherwell the lead the outcome of this one was never in doubt.
The frustrating part is that the hosts did not even have to work hard for their win. Aberdeen were simply dreadful.
Mark Gillespie featured in goal for Well after regular goalkeeper Trevor Carson’s health scare when he was hit by deep-vein thrombosis. Gillespie was called into action in the fourth minute to keep out a powerful Stevie May drive.
It was a subdued opening at Fir Park but all the chances came for the visitors and Dons captain Graeme Shinnie should have put his side in front in the 21st minute when Max Lowe picked him out brilliantly with a cutback but the midfielder screwed his shot wide with a poor right-footed effort from 14 yards.
The Dons were in complete control but they were masters of their own misery as, from their first corner of the game, they contrived to gift the home side the opening goal.
Gary Mackay-Steven took a short corner to Niall McGinn who backtracked 25 yards from the Well goal before passing the ball straight to Danny Johnson on the halfway line. The Well man could not believe his luck as he found himself one-on-one with Shay Logan and he strode forward before cutting inside to curl the ball low past Joe Lewis from 16 yards.
The perplexed look on the faces of the Aberdeen players was matched by the anguish on that of McGinn.
Aberdeen were stunned and it went from bad to worse as Well doubled their lead on the half-hour mark when Johnson headed a Curtis Main flick past Lewis from close range to make it 2-0.
The Dons took 10 minutes to recover their composure.
But they regained a foothold in the game when the impressive Lowe forced Gillespie into a save.
But any hopes of a comeback were extinguished 10 minutes into the second half.
The Dons defence got themselves in a real mess and Lewis Ferguson’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Main into the path of David Turnbull, who slotted the ball past Lewis from 10 yards. The only positive was that it did not get any worse and McInnes can only hope his players give him a reaction when it really matters against Celtic at the national stadium on Sunday.
It they don’t, it will be a very long day indeed in Glasgow this weekend.
l Aberdeen will have the chance to gain revenge on Stenhousemuir after the sides were drawn together in the draw for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.
Stenny defeated a Dons side including Theo Snelders, Eoin Jess and Duncan Shearer 2-0 at the same stage of the competition in 1995.
The match is scheduled for January 19-20.