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Duncan Shearer: No excuses – Aberdeen have to be better than they have shown so far

The Dons need to be stronger if they want to compete in Europe and domestically this season.

Aberdeen players on the pitch, who joe harper is writing about the form of.
The Aberdeen players were booed off following their 2-0 loss to Hibernian. Image: Shutterstock

Aberdeen have a serious Thursday to Sunday problem – that’s the only conclusion I can draw after two lacklustre displays following their Europa League play-off games against BK Hacken.

Sunday’s 2-o defeat by Hibernian at Pittodrie had distinct echoes of the 2-2 draw at St Mirren the week before.

The Dons were ragged and seemed to lack the composure or intensity required to win the game.

Aberdeen boss Barry Robson and his players wanted to be in Europe and their wish has been granted – but the players in particular need to understand the pitfalls which come with European competition.

Barry has a big squad at Pittodrie, however, the two league games after Europe had all the tempo of an end-of-season meaningless game with nothing at stake for the Dons.

I find that worrying in the first weekend in September.

Dons should not be feeling tired

The Dons players should be at peak fitness at this stage of the season – so to hear the manager talking about fatigue is troubling.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson at the side of the pitch
It was a frustrating afternoon against Hibs on Sunday for Dons boss Barry Robson. Image: Shutterstock.

Look at Hibs: They have just been trounced 8-0 on aggregate by Aston Villa where they played the second leg away from home and were then making another trip up to Aberdeen … and don’t have a manager.

They are the team who should have been on a downer. They are out of Europe and were facing what should have been a tough test at Pittodrie.

It was anything but that, though, as Hibs really didn’t face a great deal of attacking pressure from Aberdeen at all in the 90 minutes.

The biggest criticism I could level is to say Hibs looked hungrier.

Barry claims the Dons players are having to learn on the job and has asked for some patience from the Aberdeen fans who were quick to make their feelings known at full-time on Sunday.

He’s right to point out his squad has been built over three months, and new faces are still bedding in, but the fans will be expecting a big improvement after the international break.

Players may be new but the formations are not

What takes time is building an understanding between players.

But no honeymoon period should be required to know what your job is and how you can contribute to the team.

What players should understand quite easily is systems – whether it is 3-5-2, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, a senior professional player knows what his role is within it.

Now that the transfer window has closed, the Dons boss should be able to focus on building the structure which has been lacking within his squad during the international break.

He will be given a little bit of patience from the support, but two to three weeks is really all it should take to see signs of improvement.

Big improvement needed ahead of Conference League

Dons fans will be hoping to see significant signs of progress by the time their side make the trip to Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt in their Conference League opener on September 21.

Aberdeen will be disappointed to miss out on the Europa League but they have some great games to look forward to against the Germans, Helsinki and PAOK following their play-off loss to Hacken.

Ibrahim Sadiq was the difference between the sides as he ran the Dons ragged at Pittodrie, and I’ve no doubt equally big threats lie ahead for them.

Ibrahim Sadiq
Ibrahim Sadiq was the difference maker at Pittodrie for BK Hacken. Image: SNS.

Sadiq reminded me of Benito Carbone when we faced Torino in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993.

He was just a youngster, but Carbone gave Stewart McKimmie a really tough time of it over the two legs and was the difference maker then, too.

The hallmark of the Aberdeen team under Barry in the second half of last season was their defensive resilience.

The international break will be vital for them as they bid to get back to that for the dual task of competing in Europe and domestically this season.

County made the most of their VAR let-off

Ross County's Simon Murray celebrating a goal against Kilmarnock
Simon Murray netted the winner for Ross County against Kilmarnock. Image: SNS.

Ross County recorded a controversial win at Kilmarnock on Saturday – but I don’t think Staggies boss Malky Mackay will be losing any sleep over it.

Leading 1-0 thanks to Simon Murray’s header, County conceded a penalty after a foul on Brad Lyons.

However, the controversy came as Stuart Findlay had headed home what he felt was an equaliser.

To compound the home side’s misery, Staggies goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw saved Danny Armstrong’s spot-kick as the visitors held out for a victory.

Killie were furious and Malky was sympathetic, but I’m sure the County manager headed up the road with a big smile on his face at the outcome going in his side’s favour.

I was pleased to see Murray get the winning goal for County and it is shaping up to be a big season for the talented attacker.

He reminds me of former Aberdeen striker Darren Mackie in that he puts in a power of work for his team, so to see him get his reward with a goal is great.

He plays the game at 100 miles per hour and I do wish he’d pause and size up a situation a little more often.

But there’s no doubting his ability or that he must be a nightmare to play against.

Caley Thistle need to push on after stopping the rot

Inverness boss Billy Dodds will be relieved to have seen his side finally end their six-game losing run with a 1-1 draw against Dunfermline.

But the bigger challenge now is to pick up their first league win of the campaign.

I was at Caledonian Stadium on Saturday to watch the game and the home side had chances to win,but the Pars were well worth their point from their trip north.

Max Anderson playing for Caley Thistle
Max Anderson made his debut for Caley Thistle on Saturday. Image: SNS.

It was an encouraging start, though, after a busy week for the club with three new arrivals in Nikola Ujdur, Morgan Boyes and Max Anderson.

Anderson, a loan signing from Dundee, will have a big part to play as he takes on the role of midfield creator for the team.

He should be joined there, too, by David Carson, with the arrival of defensive reinforcements Ujdur and Boyes freeing up the experienced Carson to add some steel to the Caley Jags engine room.

There is a lot of work to be done, but the hardest step to make is always the first one and here’s hoping Caley Thistle have taken it by getting a point on the board.