Whatever talk has emanated from the Aberdeen squad about pushing for second place has been fatally undermined by the team’s form away from Pittodrie. Those tongues can surely now be stilled.
The Dons’ last six away league matches have been against the teams currently occupying the lower half of the table. They have won once. That pre-Christmas success at Kilmarnock remains the only win Aberdeen have recorded outside their own stadium since the end of September.
The inability to put away the Premiership’s bottom sides has been as conspicuous a feature of the Reds’ season as the opposite has generally been in recent years.
Following a series of predecessors who subscribed to the textbook methodology of a point away from home being a satisfactory result, the willingness to hunt full points on rival territory, and the talent and discipline to secure them, has arguably been one of the defining characteristics of Derek McInnes’ tenure. The former certainly still remains, but something is lacking to provide the latter.
Fifteen matches since Halloween have produced fifteen goals for Aberdeen, and the common denominator is that it covers the period since Marley Watkins suffered a hamstring injury.
The coincidental return of Sam Cosgrove should have softened the blow, but it is indisputable that he has not looked the same sort of threat in the Dons’ new formation as he had been for two years as the clear spearhead of a 4-5-1.
There must now be an argument for, at least in the short term, reverting to the tried and trusted in order to get the best out of the resources McInnes has to hand down the stretch. Second may be out of reach, but third is in the balance.