It is remarkable how a season which had started so promisingly could not end soon enough for Aberdeen.
But it is hard to escape the feeling of relief that the 2020-21 campaign has finally come to an end for the Pittodrie club. From Covid controversy to the best start in decades followed by a horrendous run, a change of manager and another fourth place finish, it seems as if so much has transpired since the Dons kicked off the campaign with a 1-0 defeat at home to Rangers.
Saturday proved the bookend of a season which will not be remembered fondly by the Dons support and it ended as it began with the team going down to a defeat to Rangers following a game which highlighted the gulf which now exists between the two teams.
Aberdeen were cast in the role of attending a party which they wished they had not been invited.
Thousands lined the streets outside Ibrox and the fireworks and flares were audible outside the stadium long after referee Nick Walsh had blown his whistle to get the final game of the season underway.
It was all about the Rangers and it seems Aberdeen agreed as they were swept aside with ease by the champions.
Facing a team which was targeting going an entire league campaign without defeat, the last thing Stephen Glass would have wanted was to see his side concede an early goal but that’s exactly what happened as Aberdeen literally offered a lending hand to give the champions a fifth minute lead.
Ianis Hagi’s diagonal ball found James Tavernier in the box and his first time shot was deflected goalwards by Jack MacKenzie. Dons captain Joe Lewis, forced back into action in the absence of the injured Gary Woods, stuck out a hand to try to stop the ball and succeeded in diverting it into his own net for an own goal.
The Dons, as to be expected, were forced to play on the counter and their best chance came when Jonny Hayes broke clear but his ball across goal was poor and Lewis Ferguson just could not get on the end of it.
That was as close as the visitors got to an equaliser as Rangers doubled their lead in the 34th minute. It was all down to Ryan Kent’s perseverance as the winger chased down a ricochet from a Connor McLennan clearance before crossing for Kemar Roofe whose shot deflected off MacKenzie past Lewis.
The non-existent forward line of Flo Kamberi and Callum Hendry were replaced by Dean Campbell and Fraser Hornby at the interval as Glass went for broke in the hope of getting back into the game and Hornby missed a great chance to give his side a lifeline when Ryan Hedges picked him out the back post but he missed the target.
The Dons offered more in the first 15 minutes of the second half than they had mustered in the opening 45 and Ferguson put in a late effort for miss of the season when he struck the crossbar with the goal at his mercy from six yards following a Hornby cross.
You knew what was coming and Rangers, despite being so poor after the break, broke away to make it 3-0 on the hour mark with Roofe grabbing his second of the game.
It summed up Aberdeen’s season as a whole with the Dons seemingly incapable of turning their pressure into goals before paying the price.
Hedges, Aberdeen’s best performer, decided to go it alone in trying to get his side on the scoresheet but Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was equal to his shot after the Wales international had raced past three Rangers players to create the opportunity for himself.
McGregor saved again from Ferguson and Hornby in the final 10 minutes before Rangers substitute Jermain Defoe wrapped things up when he fired home the fourth two minutes from time.
But by then the outcome of this one had long been decided. Aberdeen, despite a much improved second half where they were the better side, were well beaten.
Dons supporters will be hoping moves to ensure days like this are not repeated next season, are at an advanced stage.
A team which promised so much has nosedived. Glass has only just settled in and has been largely powerless to change it.
But Saturday confirmed what has been clear for some time. A big summer lies ahead for the new manager at Pittodrie.