Life after Scott McKenna got under way yesterday and it did not make for pretty viewing as Aberdeen were ripped apart by a ruthless Motherwell at Pittodrie.
The Dons, chasing a seventh win in a row, produced a display as inexplicable as it was inexcusable as they shipped three goals in little more than the opening 20 minutes to hand Well victory.
After several windows of will he, won’t he, McKenna’s wish to play in England is close to becoming a reality after the Dons gave him permission to discuss a move to Nottingham Forest.
Barring an unexpected complication it seems inevitable McKenna will complete his move in the next few days. He can leave having done his part for the Dons and also earned them a substantial windfall in the process.
But it is clear there is some reorganisation required to adjust to his imminent departure following the hapless defensive showing in the first half here.
Dons boss Derek McInnes cut a dejected figure following the game.
He said: “The better players were in Motherwell shirts. When that happens and you make mistakes the outcome is normally a sore one.
“Allan Campbell came up and plays to win points, we played to play a game of football. Campbell encapsulated Motherwell’s performance.
“We needed more Campbells in our team today.
“The first goal Motherwell kept it alive for the penalty kick. There wasn’t a lot Marley could do so there was a bit of misfortune.
“The second goal was an uncharacteristic mistake from big Joe.
“Ash should probably have played the ball forwards and perhaps indicative of where we didn’t react well to first goal.
“The third goal was offside, but it was neither here nor there to the result. The referee and assistant have to be better.
“That made things a lot more difficult. Two-nil is a bit of a stretch, 3-0 more so.
“We tried to make changes at half-time.
“Other than 15 or 20 minutes we played in the gear we needed to and we got in behind a bit and won more tackles. But when we didn’t get the goal the heads went down and we played out the second half much like the end of the first.”
The Dons made a nightmare start to this one as they gifted the visitors a two-goal lead inside the opening 10 minutes.
It began as they literally handed Well a fourth-minute goal when Marley Watkins handled a Bevis Mugabi header inside the six-yard box to concede a penalty which Mark O’Hara converted.
Five minutes later it was Joe Lewis’s turn to make a mistake when the Dons captain, under no pressure from an Ash Taylor pass back, kicked the ball straight to Chris Long and the Motherwell striker strode forward before beating the Aberdeen goalkeeper with a low curling shot to double his side’s lead.
Aberdeen, all at sea, were in panic mode and the Steelmen could scarcely believe their luck.
You thought it could not get any worse but incredibly, it did as Mugabi rose highest to head home Liam Polworth’s 21st-minute delivery, despite Lewis’s best efforts to try to keep the ball out.
It took the Dons until the closing minutes of the first half to get a clear sight of Trevor Carson’s goal but from an Andy Considine cross Watkins saw his header come back off the post.
McInnes made a triple substitution at the break, bringing on Shay Logan, Tommie Hoban and Ryan Edmondson for Ash Taylor, Niall McGinn and Funso Ojo.
The home performance did improve following the changes, but not sufficiently to retrieve what had already looked a tall order before the trio’s arrival. No shots on target from the home side ensured Well’s victory was a comfortable one.
For Aberdeen, one result does not undo the excellent start to the campaign but hopefully this game will serve as a timely reminder ahead of the level of performance needed as the Dons prepare for their Europa League third qualifying round tie against Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lisbon.