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Willie Miller: Right or wrong – Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin should have bit his tongue over Hibs’ Ryan Porteous

Hibernian's Ryan Porteous and Aberdeen's Liam Scales hit the deck at Easter Road.
Hibernian's Ryan Porteous and Aberdeen's Liam Scales hit the deck at Easter Road.

I’d expect Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin to get a slap on the wrist for his comments about Hibs defender Ryan Porteous.

In the aftermath of the Dons’ 3-1 defeat at Easter Road, Goodwin suggested Porteous was guilty of “blatant cheating” in his penalty-box tangle with Reds defender Liam Scales.

The flashpoint from a corner on the stroke of half-time saw Scales shown a second yellow card by referee David Dickinson and Hibs awarded a spot-kick, which Martin Boyle converted to level the scores at 1-1.

Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin protests to referee David Dickinson.

Goodwin revealed he had warned his players about Porteous’ record for going down too easily and had also spoken to the referee about the opposition player before kick-off.

Going by my experience as a player, manager and director at Aberdeen, I think the SFA may ask Goodwin to explain his comments.

Unsavoury words shouldn’t be encouraged

Whether Porteous was in the right or wrong during the incident with Scales at Easter Road on Saturday, or whether he does go down too easily or not, I don’t think it’s good for the game if managers or players come out and aim such strong criticism at their fellow professionals.

Aberdeen – and the Dons fans – will point back to last season when Hearts boss Robbie Neilson accused former Red Lewis Ferguson of “diving”, using the same “blatant cheating” wording, after the midfielder was awarded a penalty in a 2-0 defeat at Tynecastle.

Goodwin exchanges words with Porteous at full-time.

Those comments went unpunished, but I said at the time Neilson should have been sanctioned by the SFA.

Look, it’s easy to get frustrated over some of the incorrect decisions which can go against you. I had my moments over my own career – on the pitch, in the dugout and in the boardroom – but I don’t think these unsavoury wars of words should be encouraged.

And I’m not going to change my opinion because it’s the Aberdeen manager.

Modern defensive approach is wrong one and gives referees decisions to make

Scales had rightly received a booking moments beforehand, for a stretching challenge where he may have got a touch on the ball but was out of control by modern standards.

For the few seconds he remained on the pitch, Scales – who is still relatively inexperienced at Premiership level – should have known he was walking a tightrope and needed to be ultra cautious.

What really frustrates me about the Scales-Porteous incident is it was one of those moments you see all of the time in penalty boxes nowadays.

Firstly, I can’t understand why defending players in the game nowadays are so desperate to get that close to the attacking players.

Back in the day, I always wanted to give myself a yard so I knew where the attacker was going.

This growing desperation to be as tight as possible to the attacker is obviously something which is being coached and has crept into the game over the years. And I think it’s the wrong way to defend.

It’s commonplace to see players, as was evident with Scales and Porteous, both intent on wrestling with each other and completely ignoring the ball.

Regardless who eventually hauls who to the ground, they were more interested in grabbing hold of each other.

Most of the time with these incidents the referees do the right thing and just ignore them, but – when you get involved in those types of situations and the attacking player goes down – you leave yourself open to a decision going against you.

VAR would have likely corrected decision – so why aren’t we giving refs help now?

On Saturday, the referee has made the wrong decision – because both players were as bad as each other – and Aberdeen suffered because of it.

The best course of action would have been for the referee to tell them both to get up and for the corner to have been retaken or for play to have continued.

What the incident did once again underline was the need to get video assistant referee (VAR) technology up and running in Scotland.

Liam Scales (4) of Aberdeen is sent off against Hibs at Easter Road by referee David Dickinson.

I was at Easter Road and, although I was obviously further away from the flashpoint, it was impossible to tell exactly what had happened.

It’s all fine and well assessing these calls in the days after the game once the highlights have been on the telly, but – with an incident like the Scales-Porteous one where there’s an off-the-ball coming together and limbs are flying all over the place – give the referees the chance to have another look at it at the time.

Using McCrorie as centre-back cover sees Dons struggle to cope again

In terms of the game at Easter Road, generally, Aberdeen and Hibs are both teams who have felt the benefits of playing against 10 men this term – perhaps disproving the old chestnut that it’s difficult to play with a numerical advantage!

But I think, in the aftermath of Scales’ dismissal, it once again showed the Dons should have strengthened their centre-back options during the summer transfer window. I’ve said it on a number of occasions!

Even with 11 men at Easter Road, and despite going a goal up with Luis “Duk” Lopes’ header, Aberdeen were struggling to win the midfield battle.

They then lost any grip on the middle of the park completely when they went down a man and moved Ross McCrorie out of central midfield to fill in at the back, as has been the case many times over his Dons career – and not just under Goodwin.

Aberdeen’s Ross McCrorie, left, in action against Hibs.

The problem with expecting a player who is primarily a midfielder to go in and cover in defence, is their lack of familiarity with the position – and their fellow defenders – can leave the team open at key moments, as was shown with the disjointed Aberdeen backline for Hibs’ second and third goals.

It was a bad day all round and the Reds need to channel any frustration over the Scales dismissal and aftermath into the matches ahead.

But it would be far better if McCrorie was able to remain in midfield for those fixtures.

Big ask for Polvara given the circumstances v Hibs

There’s been some criticism of him in the aftermath of Saturday’s game, but I think it is hard to point the finger at American midfielder Dante Polvara.

How many minutes has Polvara played for Aberdeen to this point?

You are asking him to come on, due to Liam Scales’ red card and Ross McCrorie being moved into defence, and put up a barrier in a midfield area Hibs were dominating.

Having stepped up from college football in the States – a much lower standard to where he now finds himself – the 22-year-old has not got the experience to deal with a situation like that in the Premiership and it was a bit of a struggle for him.

Dante Polvara.

People are always going to rush to judgment – but I think we need to see what Polvara can do in more games where it is 11v11, because shoring up the middle of the park at Easter Road at the weekend was a really big ask.

He was part of the bigger picture of a poor afternoon for the Dons – but I don’t think you can criticise him more than anyone else for the defeat.

Celtic’s shock loss changes mindsets

What a difference a day makes in the battle between the Premiership top two.

Going in the latest round of top-flight fixtures, Giovanni van Bronckhorst was under immense pressure – with Rangers facing their worst run of defeats since the mid-1980s if they’d lost to Dundee United at Ibrox on Saturday, and having suffered a few hammerings over recent games.

It wasn’t a walk in the park for the Gers and they only narrowly beat a Tangerines side who are rock-bottom of the division, which didn’t exactly lift the pressure.

And then – manna from heaven: Ange Postecoglou’s champions Celtic, who had been so impressive in beating Rangers in the recent Old Firm clash, hadn’t lost in the league in 364 days and had looked like maybe running away with things, lose 2-0 at St Mirren.

It has certainly changed the complexion of the table at this early stage and will have given Rangers a boost – and I think it will have boosted the other teams in the league psychologically as well.

The strain Rangers and Celtic are under with the demands of playing the Champions League against the elite of the elite in Europe means this is the best time in the campaign to take them on and get a result, in my opinion.