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Duncan Shearer: No room for error left at Aberdeen

Dons boss Jim Goodwin needs a win this weekend
Dons boss Jim Goodwin needs a win this weekend

The margin for error is zero now for Aberdeen as they put their top six hopes on the line this weekend.

I’m going to Pittodrie to watch the Dons take on Hibernian and I’m really interested to see whether the players are up for the fight.

There are eight games left in Aberdeen’s season and they have to make them mean something.

If they lose to Hibs, results elsewhere could end the Dons’ top six hopes, which is why it is vital they pick up their first league win of 2022.

Aberdeen are only eight points clear of second bottom St Johnstone and nobody needs to tell me the Dons are too good to go down.

I can remember all too vividly the trouble we got ourselves into in the 1994-95 season before saving ourselves in the play-offs against Dunfermline.

Jim Goodwin has spent his time talking about the top six and fourth place since he arrived, but privately there will be moments where he nervously looks over his shoulder at how Saints and Dundee are getting on, especially after Aberdeen have lost a game.

Scott Brown departure no surprise

Scott Brown has left Aberdeen
Scott Brown has left Aberdeen

Jim is already turning his thoughts towards the future by letting Scott Brown leave the club and signing Jonny Hayes to a new deal in the last week, but he will still be assessing others in his squad.

I’m not surprised to see Brown move on. He came north for a player-coach role, but found himself under a new manager who did not see a role for him on the training ground.

Brown will respect that. It’s football – managers have their own way of doing things.

It is clear conversations had taken place between the new Dons boss and his team captain and the fact Brown has been linked with a few other roles tells me he won’t be out of the game for long.

But, if his desire truly is to be wearing a coach’s tracksuit rather than a player training kit, then maybe the time has come for him to choose one role and call time on his playing career.

County making a head start on their plans for next season

Ross County defender Keith Watson.
Ross County captain Keith Watson was among those to sign new deals with the club last week.

Malky Mackay is another manager making plans for the future after announcing a raft of new contracts at the club.

It is such a refreshing change to see the Staggies going about their business of extending deals in March.

Seeing Keith Watson, Jordan White and Jordan Tillson sign extensions reinforces County’s belief they are safe and can plan for next season.

It also tells me the players have thoroughly enjoyed their season under Malky and want to be part of his plans.

It is easy to forget the disarray the Staggies were in when the manager was appointed last summer.

Several experienced campaigners were freed and Malky inherited a skeleton staff.

He has had to effectively build a team from scratch and that was reflected in the slow start made by County to the campaign.

But in the last five months they have been great to watch. Going to Victoria Park has been a consistently enjoyable experience for me as I know I’ve been guaranteed excitement every time.

No team wins every game, but the way County approach matches is great to watch. They attack teams, put them under pressure and visiting sides do not enjoy their trips north.

With Malky already making headway in signing players up to new deals, I’m convinced the Staggies are well placed to take another step forward next season.

Caley Thistle must build on vital win

It was long overdue but Caley Thistle’s 3-0 win against Arbroath on Saturday was a much-deserved one.

I just hope Billy Dodds and his players can go and build on it by ensuring Inverness are in the play-offs at the end of the season.

You are not leading the Championship in December if you are a poor team, but a combination of a poor run of results and a loss of confidence has hit Caley Jags hard in the last three months. But a day like Saturday had been coming. I’ve watched Inverness too many times this season to write them off.

They’ve played really well in games and not got their rewards, but I had a feeling Arbroath would be the game where it turned for my old club, which is why I tipped them to beat Dick Campbell’s side a week ago.

It was a similar performance to the one Kilmarnock produced at Ayr on Friday with Inverness getting after Arbroath early and scoring two good goals to take control of the game.

Hardy looks a handful

Joe Hardy was excellent in Caley Thistle’s victory against Arbroath on Saturday.

There were a lot of good performances for Inverness on the day, but the standout player for me was Joe Hardy.

He put in a power of work to put Arbroath’s backline under pressure and he reminded me of Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos in how he approached the game.

He is a pest of a player and I mean that as a compliment. He must be horrible to play against.

Caley Thistle’s poor three-month run, however, means they have little time to celebrate a landmark win as they have a vital game ahead of them this weekend at Raith Rovers.

Defeat will mean Caley Jags drop out of the top four. With the games now counting down, it is vital Inverness keep their play-off hopes firmly in their own hands.