Aberdeen’s season has hit a bump in the road, but it’s far from time for panic stations at Pittodrie.
The Dons’ winless run extended to five games following Monday’s goalless draw with Ross County and the home fans were quick to let manager Jim Goodwin know how unhappy they are at the minute as a chorus of boos rang out around Pittodrie.
My old club has struggled to get going again after the World Cup break and patience is in short supply among the Red Army, who have watched their side go from being clear in third place in mid-November to five points adrift of Hearts.
Aberdeen have taken one point from a possible 15.
In that same period, the Jambos have amassed 10 from a possible 12 to overtake the Dons, all while still having a game in hand, too.
The home losses to Celtic and Rangers were hugely disappointing, but it is the defeats on the road by St Mirren and Kilmarnock which have really knocked a huge dent in Aberdeen’s confidence.
That much was evident for Monday’s game against the Staggies.
Tactical reshuffle – and a recall for Ramirez
The three at the back was ditched in favour of a return to a back four, while Christian Ramirez was handed his first start since the League Cup group stage back in July.
I’m not sure playing in a number 10 position behind Bojan Miovski was the best tactic to get the most out of the American, but Goodwin certainly cannot be accused of lacking ambition as he fielded all three of his main strikers in his starting 11.
Monday’s game highlighted where the Dons are at the minute perfectly.
They had 22 attempts at goal, but only six on target.
On another day they could have comfortably won by two or three goals, but it was simply one of those days where the ball would not go in for Aberdeen.
The defence, which has come for a lot of criticism at times this season, was rock solid to the extent Kelle Roos had next to nothing to do in the whole game.
But when you have started the season well and have been scoring goals for fun at home in particular, when you draw a blank it can feel as if it is the end of the world.
Weekend win needed ahead of cup semi against Rangers
The fans are frustrated, restless and in need of a sign this is nothing more than a blip.
Certainly a win against St Johnstone on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s League Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden would come in handy.
With the transfer window now open, I’ll be interested to see whether the manager gets the opportunity to bring some new faces in.
He was one of the busiest managers in the country in the summer, but a spark of creativity to freshen up the side would not go amiss.
Ross County cannot be cut adrift
While the Dons will rue dropping two points on Monday, the point gained from their trip to Pittodrie was an excellent one for Ross County.
Malky Mackay, like Jim Goodwin, has had a tough time of it recently and both managers went into their first game of 2023 on the back of four straight defeats.
Looking at it now, we should have seen a draw coming.
The Staggies may have rode their luck at times at Pittodrie, but they also worked hard for each other and gave their all to deny Aberdeen.
In the end, the point they earned was a well-earned one and it will feel doubly sweet given the manager had to leave out two players for disciplinary reasons, while he was already without two players due to suspension in Jack Baldwin and Owura Edwards.
But the Scottish Premiership is an unforgiving league and, due to other results, County – despite picking up a point – now find themselves three points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Staggies in need of a win
Livingston are next up when they make the trip north to Dingwall on Saturday and it is another huge game for County.
The last thing the Staggies can afford is for that gap to become four, five or six points.
When you are the team at the bottom of the league the rest of the division gangs up on you.
The Premiership is a cut-throat league with so little between the teams, but if a team is cut adrift at the bottom of the division, then every other team instinctively targets them knowing a win will always keep County there.
Experience and quality get Caley Thistle back on track
A little bit of extra quality went a long way to getting Caley Thistle’s 2023 off to a flying start on Monday.
Danny Devine’s first game in a month, allied to Mark Ridgers and Billy Mckay, and a fine debut for Jay Henderson, were all important factors in Caley Jags’ 6-1 demolition of Cove Rangers.
Debutant Henderson was a little nervous in the first half, but once he found his footing he was terrific and I’m sure my old strike partner Billy Dodds was salivating at the thought of being on the end of the crosses Henderson delivered – I know I was.
The result was an important one for Inverness, not only due to their recent results, but also given both Partick Thistle and Dundee lost.
If they can pick up another three points on Saturday at Arbroath then they will be firmly back in the promotion hunt.
Credit to Cove Rangers, too. I know the scoreline gives the impression it was a one-sided encounter, but that’s far from the case.
Jim McIntyre’s side played some terrific football and deservedly opened the scoring.
But the loss of Gerry McDonagh after half an hour was the turning point.
He gave the Caley Thistle defence a torrid time and it was only after he had to be substituted that Inverness got a grip of the game.
Cove’s defending was poor, but – in terms of how they played the game – there was a lot to like about them.
That’s why the news of Jim’s departure last night came as such a shock. There was a lot to like about his team even though the scoreline didn’t reflect that on Monday.