The November international break came at just the right time for Aberdeen, allowing them to lick their wounds after last weekend’s Celtic Park mauling.
Having put in an incredible shift in Greece to secure an impressive 2-2 draw against PAOK, the players looked lifeless against the league leaders – and right from the start, it seemed inevitable a heavy defeat was imminent.
I had not, however, anticipated such a rout, and the loss is up there with a number of similar thrashings in the east end of Glasgow over the past couple of decades.
Barry Robson has often defended his players after some of their disappointing displays this season, but he was brutally honest in his assessment last Sunday. He, and the squad, know it was entirely unacceptable.
Celtic have better, more talented players, and the likelihood is, if they hit form, they will usually beat Aberdeen. That is a pure and simple fact.
But, as St Johnstone and Hibernian have proved of late, if the opposition match the champions for desire and application, there is a way to frustrate and nullify them. The Dons failed miserably on both accounts.
The season continues to be a perplexing one.
The better displays have come in Europe (albeit those have garnered just two points to date), but the players have been unable to match that level of performance domestically.
I know they have games in hand, but sitting two points off the bottom is not where Dave Cormack would have expected to be, having sanctioned a not insignificant spend over the summer.
It is too simplistic to cite the Europa Conference League as the main factor in the team’s inconsistency.
Yes, the involvement in the group stage does present problems, challenges to be overcome, but Barry has amassed a sizeable squad at Pittodrie, and should have the tools to cope with the additional demands.
When they return from the break, the Dons have a home game against Rangers, then a journey to Finland to take on HJK in the penultimate group tie.
That will be followed by an incredibly busy December – nine games, of which, thankfully for the team, six are at home.
They are going to have to somehow find a way of maintaining the standard we all know they are capable of on a more regular basis, otherwise the campaign will be in danger of fizzling out.
One of the trips is, of course, to the national stadium to take on Rangers in the League Cup final, and that could be a transformational fixture.
Win it, against all the odds, and the players will get an injection of confidence which should sustain them through the winter months.
A loss, particularly if it is of the nature suffered at Celtic Park, would clearly have the opposite effect, and be hugely damaging all round.
On that final, the supporters deserve massive credit for snapping up the club’s initial ticket allocation.
There is still fury over the split implemented by the SPFL, which I totally understand.
Sadly, it was ever thus, and the authorities will continue to bend over backwards to appease the Glasgow clubs on such occasions.
That does not make it right, but it is, unfortunately, a fact of life.
Shankland should start for Scotland at home to Norway
Following a turgid first45 minutes in Tbilisi, Scotland were much more like themselves after the interval, and with the tempo upped, they deserved the draw which ended their recent losing streak.
The introduction of former Dons Lewis Ferguson and Kenny McLean helped, but the key substitution was that of Lawrence Shankland for Lyndon Dykes.
The Hearts man may have been a late call-up, but his club form demanded his inclusion, and I was surprised Steve Clarke waited so long before putting him on.
When he did enter the fray, the striker did what he does best.
Lawrence possesses the clinical edge that Dykes, Adams and others do not, and his lack of international game time is somewhat baffling.
I recall campaigning for him to be given an opportunity as far back as his Dundee United days, and he is a much-improved player now.
I would hope he gets a start against Norway on Sunday.