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Duncan Shearer: I fear Aberdeen’s top six bid is mission improbable

The Aberdeen players are dismayed at conceding a late goal at Ibrox.
The Aberdeen players are dismayed at conceding a late goal at Ibrox.

I fear Aberdeen’s top six hopes have slipped away after their 1-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox.

A combination of the Dons taking nothing from their trip to Glasgow and results elsewhere have left new manager Jim Goodwin needing an awful lot to go his way.

Aberdeen are 10th in the Premiership, four points away from a top six place, but with only three games remaining.

I’ll be at Pittodrie next weekend to see them face Hibernian, and the other two games after that – at Dundee then at home to Ross County – are winnable on paper.

But for a team which hasn’t won in the league since Boxing Day, it is asking a lot to expect them to take nine points out of nine in these remaining games.

Given the number of teams above the Dons, we’re not quite in mission impossible territory, but it’s looking like mission improbable at this stage.

Make no mistake, missing out on a top six place would be a huge blow to the Dons as it means they will have the League Cup group stages rather than Europe to look forward to in the summer.

This was a transitional season for the club under a new manager, but Aberdeen would have expected to be in the top four as a minimum.

It is only due to the inconsistency of the other teams ahead of them that the Dons are still in with a fighting chance of getting across that top six finish line, but I fear the games are going to run out for my out-of-sorts old team.

If Aberdeen do end the season in the bottom half of the table, then I don’t expect them to be hauled into the mire by either St Johnstone or Dundee – but there is no getting away from the fact this has been a hugely underwhelming campaign.

Paucity of Dons attack is a concern

Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin

Jim Goodwin has come in and is trying to steady the ship but it’s the lack of attacking threat, which is the biggest cause for concern.

The new manager believes his side were robbed of a point due to a refereeing decision at Ibrox on Saturday, but I don’t think there was an awful lot in Calvin Bassey’s challenge on Calvin Ramsay in the build-up to Kemar Roofe’s winner.

Aberdeen defended well for the 90 minutes and other than Roofe’s goal Dons goalkeeper Joe Lewis had nothing to do for the game.

The problem for me is that Allan McGregor had even less to do in the Rangers goal. Aberdeen as an attacking threat were non-existent and, while an improving defence offers some consolation, if the Dons can’t score they are not going to win games.

Clearly, whatever happens in the remaining games, changes are coming at the end of the season.

The manager will have made his mind up on most of his squad already, but right now he has to utilise everyone available.

Players know they are playing for their futures when a new manager comes in, but moving on those under contract could prove difficult.

Malky Mackay – manager of the year?

While Aberdeen struggle to find any momentum at all, Ross County are flying high after recording three wins in the last week.

It shows just how far three wins can take you that the Staggies have moved into the top six. If they can stay there it will be an incredible achievement for Malky Mackay and his players.

I was at Victoria Park on Saturday to see them beat St Mirren and it was far from a classic, but what impressed me was the central defensive pairing of Alex Iacovitti and Jack Baldwin.

They were no-nonsense, old-fashioned centre-halves, who chased, kicked and headed everything which came their way.

Malky Mackay.

The confidence is growing within the team as has been shown by back-to-back clean sheets recorded and the ability to grind out results.

For the Staggies to be where they are now, given the head start they seemed to give every other team in the league, is nothing short of remarkable and is a credit to the work done by the manager and his players.

It would be quite the story if they can hang on to a top six spot and in any other season such an achievement would surely have Malky in the discussion for manager of the year.

I think we all know Dick Campbell at Arbroath will have that accolade sewn up given his incredible season with the Red Lichties, but Malky is worthy of being in the conversation considering the job he has done in Dingwall.

All is not lost for Caley Thistle

Caley Thistle boss Billy Dodds.

It is clear Caley Thistle’s Championship title hopes have been sunk but Inverness cannot sit and feel sorry for themselves as their play-off hopes hang by a thread.

Friday’s loss at Partick Thistle, coupled with wins for Arbroath and Kilmarnock, have left Inverness 11 points behind Dick Campbell’s league leading Red Lichties.

The play-offs are now where Inverness lie and their focus has to be on stopping the miserable run of form they are on and getting back to winning ways.

Beating the leaders on Saturday is the perfect time to do it and I’m going to stick my neck on the line and say I believe Inverness can beat Arbroath this weekend.

I’m hoping Raith Rovers’ failure to take advantage of Caley Jags’ defeat has given Inverness the necessary jolt.

Their form has been awful, but they remain in the top four. Third or fourth is the best they can hope for now and they have to put all their energy into making sure they stay there.

Promotion via the play-offs is notoriously tough for a Championship side, but it is not impossible. Caley Thistle, however, need to find some form or a season which promised so much is going to peter out.

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