Aberdeen laboured into 2020 with a 1-1 draw with Hearts that left manager Derek McInnes looking forward to the transfer window opening.
Injuries to Greg Leigh, Andy Considine and Craig Bryson, plus another suffered by Zak Vyner yesterday that could keep him out for the rest of the season, played a part in their display, as well as missing the suspended Sam Cosgrove.
But the Dons manager, a man not averse to reshaping his squad in the January window, knows strides have to be made come the new year.
McInnes said: “It’s a 1-1 draw where I think both teams deserve their point and neither deserve all three. We’ve come through two games without our top goalscorer and picked up four points out of six.
“We’ve not been anywhere near the level I want us to be but we’ve still picked up a point.
“We’ll look to get Cosgrove back and a few additions in January so we’re more likely to take three points in a game like yesterday.”
Bruce Anderson had been the go-to player to champion for Aberdeen supporters, desperate to see his exploits in the reserves, plus impressive first-team cameos, rewarded with a run in the side. Particularly when their reliance on Sam Cosgrove has been evident, as the leading man has 16 goals more than anyone else in Dons colours this season but has had to sit out these last two games through suspension.
Derek McInnes has spoken of Anderson as the best natural finisher at the club and he has plundered goals for fun in Paul Sheerin’s reserves this season.
At 21 he is clearly a step above that level and has earned a chance with his boyhood club.
“I have to be fair to young Bruce,” added McInnes. “It’s tough playing away from home against two big centre-backs. I wanted to give him every chance to flourish. He had one header and his movement is good.
“But we understood there’s still a lot in his development, with his back to play.
“You can clearly see the fans are right behind wee Bruce.”
He was paired up front with Curtis Main in a lop-sided 4-1-3-2, with Jon Gallagher tucked in off the right as part of a midfield trio and Dean Campbell pressed into service as a left-back.
The setup yielded little in the way of an attacking threat for the Dons in the first half, with Anderson unable to get in behind like he did against Livingston and Main drawn away from the penalty area to utilise his hold-up play.
Hearts had begun to target Campbell, too, with Uche Ikpeazu getting the better of him for the only chance of the first half, a cross for Ryotaro Meshino who had his shot cleared off the line by Scott McKenna.
It led to McInnes reverting to the back four that featured against Livi, with Campbell moving into midfield and Vyner dropping in at full-back.
Meshino was proving the most difficult player to deal with, however, dropping into space behind Ikpeazu and Euan Henderson and proving an elusive presence on the ball.
They were turning the screw on Aberdeen at the end of the first half, with Joe Lewis required to keep out Craig Halkett and Ollie Bozanic, and Tynecastle began to feed off the building momentum.
Daniel Stendel, for a manager who had lost all four of his previous games in charge, was an effervescent presence on the touchline. Poor form had clearly drained none of his enthusiasm.
Meshino built on his bustling first-half display immediately. With Aberdeen’s towering centre-backs and 30 yards between him and the goal, with no maroon shirts in front of him, the playmaker continued his dart forward and curled a sumptuous effort beyond Lewis.
How would Aberdeen respond? McGinn had already been brought on after Vyner went off injured before the break and James Wilson was summoned next, in place of Main.
Some fortune went in their favour, with referee Alan Muir giving Sean Clare a straight red card for pulling back Gallagher, but there was no fluke in the execution of the equaliser, with McGinn dragging the Dons level with a well-taken free-kick.
McInnes added: “Hearts didn’t have it their own way but the story of the game was the two moments of quality, one from Meshino and one from McGinn.
“Thankfully McGinn has done that time and again for me.
“When we were screaming out for that bit of quality and calmness, Niall was there as he normally is.”