Perhaps a sharpener ahead of the Scottish Cup was just what Aberdeen needed.
They rounded out their winter training camp with a 1-0 defeat to Jordanian side Al Wehdat, with the Dons delivering a laboured performance that lacked any real verve.
The players had been in camp since Thursday at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, with their last competitive game coming in the 1-1 draw with Hearts on December 29.
They faced a side who were preparing for the start of their own season and were certainly more technically adept than some of the Dons’ previous opponents in Dubai.
It will certainly give manager Derek McInnes some pointers as to where his side need to improve ahead of Dumbarton’s visit.
Dylan McGeouch started his first game since November wearing the number 17 jersey, while Ryan Hedges occupied the left-back role with Greg Leigh injured and Andy Considine on the bench. Jon Gallagher sat out after picking up a knock in training on Sunday.
Given some of the heavy challenges in these games in years past, manager Derek McInnnes will not have wanted any injuries coming out of a friendly, with the Scottish Cup tie against Dumbarton lurking around the corner. He will have winced at Sam Cosgrove limping after a hefty challenge from Yazan Al-Arab, with the striker’s protests falling on deaf ears.
The first opportunity of the game presented itself to Scott McKenna, rising highest to meet Niall McGinn’s corner eight minutes in but only finding the arms of goalkeeper Ahmad Abdel-Sattar.
The game was scheduled for a stadium to accommodate the strong following Al Wehdat have in Dubai, thanks to a significant Jordanian diaspora in the region. Their supporters numbered at least 200 in the Maktoum bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Stadium, occupying opposite sides of the pitch and alternating chants to one another. At least 60 Dons fans made the journey to the ground, which is situated around 30 minutes from the city centre of Dubai.
There were hints of the game getting fractious in the first period, with Al-Arab and Cosgrove again clashing, while Fadi Awad had a kick out at Hedges after the Welshman blocked him off, with the referee unmoved on both occasions.
McInnes was unhappy with some of his side’s slack play and more untidiness saw them punished on 35 minutes. Ash Taylor attempted to find McGeouch in the middle of the park but only found Ahmad Samir, who played a one-two with Ahmad Elias before beating Joe Lewis from the edge of the box.
The Dons offered little in the way of a response before the break, with only a cross from Connor McLennan, which floated in front of McGinn and Cosgrove, to speak of.
The changes began to ring at half-time, with Mikey Devlin, Andy Considine and Dean Campbell coming on for Taylor, Hedges and McGeouch.
Considine was booked less than 10 minutes after coming on, with Samir falling theatrically after claiming to have been caught in the face by the Aberdeen defender.
Hisham Al-Saifi, the gangly striker up front for Al Wehdat, had been kept largely quiet until he robbed Funso Ojo 30 yards from goal and tried from distance for a spectacular second. Lewis had plenty of time to see it and parry.
Deflected efforts from McLennan and Lewis Ferguson caused no real alarm in the Jordanians’ defence but Aberdeen’s carelessness in possession was continuing to frustrate McInnes, with Devlin guilty of giving the ball away on the edge of his own box.
Bruce Anderson, James Wilson and Curtis Main were readied in further changes for the Dons, as they finished with four strikers, with only Wilson coming close to breaking the Jordanians’ resolve.