They were a mile off where their manager wants them to be but if nothing else Aberdeen deserve credit for showing resiliency and no lack of character as they rescued a point against Hibernian.
There was no hint of what was to come in a poor first half but a second 45 minutes produced two goals, two red cards for the Dons and two missed chances for Hibs.
The way the match ended it would have come as no surprise if – given an additional five minutes – the Dons had gone on to win it. But in the circumstances assistant manager Tony Docherty was content.
He said: “The way the game went and the reaction we got from the players was a good outcome for us. Huge credit to the players, they were the reflection of their manager today. Before the game we wanted the three points but it was a good outcome getting a point, the way the game panned out.
“I can’t speak for Hibs. If they are profligate in front for goal that’s for them. Our team was staring down the barrel of the gun and in circumstances like that you have to stand up and we did that.” The point gained eases some of the pressure on manager Derek McInnes, who has faced criticism following the 5-0 Rangers loss a week ago but Docherty was quick to defend his colleague.
He said: “We’re lucky at Aberdeen that we have Derek McInnes and we need to realise how lucky we are at times.
“The players epitomised him today.”
Aberdeen, their pride wounded by that Ibrox mauling, started tentatively and it was the visitors who looked lively in the first 20 minutes.
Joe Lewis was called into action early when Daryl Horgan’s pass sent Christian Doidge clear on goal but the Dons captain stood tall to block his effort.
The only other chance of note was a long range bouncing free kick from Stevie Mallan which Lewis gathered at the second attempt.
For the Dons, who made four changes following their Rangers loss, Ethan Ross looked lively on his first start for the club. Playing wide left in a 4-4-2 formation, the winger was full of energy and willing to take on the Hibs backline when on the ball.
The only problem was those opportunities were sadly limited.
Three times he was in space on the left and three times a team-mate made the wrong choice.
Sam Cosgrove was the culprit of arguably the best chance when he opted to shoot instead of playing in his young team-mate.
When his effort was blocked it bounced back to Lewis Ferguson who fired straight at Chris Maxwell in the Hibs goal.
Aberdeen’s only other opportunities came from corners and free-kicks around the Hibs box but they failed to test Maxwell with any of them in a drab first half.
The second half was more lively, with the visitors opening the scoring two minutes after the restart.
It came from a corner played to the edge of the box where the waiting Tom James fired low into the penalty area.
Curtis Main stuck out a leg to block the shot but the ball spun to Ryan Porteous and the defender swivelled before firing past Lewis.
Aberdeen’s afternoon went from bad to worse when they were reduced to 10 men.
Curtis Main was sent for an early bath, receiving a red card for a foul on Mallan in the 55th minute. The striker was in possession of the ball but lunged forward under pressure and with his foot off the ground referee Don Robertson had no hesitation about reaching into his top pocket.
The Aberdeen manager’s response was to send Jon Gallagher and Niall McGinn on for Dean Campbell and Ross and Gallagher’s first contribution was to fire wide from a Ryan Hedges lay-off.
Hibs should have put the game beyond Aberdeen after Doidge found himself through on goal twice but both times Dons captain Lewis made key saves to keep his side in the game.
The Aberdeen goalkeeper’s heroics were almost rewarded when Hedges had a sight of goal but his effort from the edge of the box struck the post with Maxwell beaten.
The Dons would not be denied their equaliser though and with Hibs retreating, the late pressure from the home side forced a corner and from McGinn’s delivery Sam Cosgrose rose highest to score with a bullet header.
Hopes of an Aberdeen victory were ended when Ferguson, who had been their driving force, was sent off for a wild challenge on Mallan and they had to settle for a point.