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Analysis: Aberdeen need to change the record as post-split fight for survival begins

Dons' head-to-head record against bottom half rivals in need of improvement in final five games of the campaign.

Aberdeen's Shayden Morris and Motherwell's Georgie Gent during a Premiership clash at Pittodrie. Image: SNS
Aberdeen's Shayden Morris and Motherwell's Georgie Gent in action in the 3-3 draw in February. Image: SNS

It is back to more mundane matters for Aberdeen following the highs and lows of their weekend Scottish Cup rollercoaster ride at Hampden.

The Dons departed the National Stadium with plaudits if not progress to the final following their penalty shoot-out defeat by holders Celtic after a cup classic had ended level at 3-3 following 120 memorable minutes.

But, as the dust settles on the Dons’ cup campaign for another season the focus now turns to Premiership survival.

The Europa Conference League run and domestic cup campaigns, as enjoyable as they were, have masked what has been a torrid league campaign for Aberdeen.

It cost former boss Barry Robson his job while interim manager Neil Warnock departed after 33 days having failed to win any of his league matches as the team slipped deeper into the mire.

Jimmy Thelin will take charge of Aberdeen in June. Image: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

Jimmy Thelin will pitch-up at Pittodrie in June to usher in a new era but before he arrives in Scotland interim boss Peter Leven, who will join the Elfsborg manager’s backroom staff, has the task of ensuring the Swede takes charge of a Premiership club.

The fall from being the third best team in Scotland a year ago to hovering five points above the relegation play-off has been sharp and painful for Aberdeen.

The post-split fixtures for Leven have been kind with the Dons boss handed three home games in the final five matches.

But given Aberdeen’s track record against some of the bottom half sides this season Leven will be looking to his players to show some of that Hampden fighting spirit in the final weeks of the campaign.

Pittodrie has been a happy hunting ground for opponents

Aberdeen are traditionally strong at home but Pittodrie has not been a daunting away trip for many teams this season.

The Dons have won just four of their home games in the division, drawing seven and losing five.

Motherwell, the first visitors to the Granite City this weekend in the post-split finale, were beaten twice by the Dons in front of their own fans at Fir Park but found Pittodrie much more to their liking.

Stuart Kettlewell’s side raced into a 3-0 lead against Warnock’s Reds in the opening 26 minutes on their last visit.

The former manager made changes to redress the balance as his side rallied thanks to a double from substitute Duk and a Stefan Gartenmann goal but the Dons could not find a winner as it ended 3-3.

Pittodrie will hold no fears for Perth Saints

St Johnstone, who visit Pittodrie next weekend, have fared even better and will make the trip north boasting an unbeaten record against the Dons this term.

They drew 0-0 in their first trip north and fought back to earn a point in a 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park before recording a 2-0 victory against the Dons on their last visit on February 28.

The Perth Saints have won only once since but with just four points separating them from the Dons they will see their third visit to Pittodrie as a chance to close the gap on Aberdeen.

Easter Road represents one of the two away days for the Dons and hosts Hibernian, like the Perth Saints, are unbeaten in their three matches against Aberdeen so far.

They took full points thanks to 2-0 wins in their first two games at Pittodrie and in Edinburgh before sharing the spoils in a 2-2 draw when the sides last met on February 17.

Dons will want to avoid late drama

Jamie McGrath (7) of Aberdeen celebrates scoring to make kit 2-1 against Ross County. Image: Shutterstock
Jamie McGrath (7), is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring in the 2-1 win against Ross County in March. Image: Shutterstock

The final two matches offer some crumbs of comfort, however.

Livingston, whose relegation will be confirmed this weekend if they lose at home to second-bottom Ross County, have failed to beat Aberdeen but did hold the Dons to two goalless draws in their home games.

However, despite taking the lead on their last visit to Aberdeen on December 20, two goals from Bojan Miovski gave the Dons victory.

Potential for a final day of drama in Dingwall

Aberdeen will hope to have consigned all thoughts of being dragged into the play-offs to history by the time they play their final league game.

If they haven’t then the scene could be set for a final day of drama at Victoria Park against County.

The Dons have won all three games against the Staggies this season and beat County in the League Cup quarter-final in Dingwall too, but Don Cowie’s side gave Aberdeen a real run for their money in the 2-1 loss to the Dons on March 30.

There are a couple of notes of concern which Aberdeen should bear in mind.

Since taking charge as interim boss, Cowie remains undefeated at home and his side have a spring in their step following a stunning 3-2 win against Rangers in their last game before the split.

In a season of remarkable highs and lows, the Red Army will be quite happy to be spared further excitement by the time their side makes the trip north.

They wished for the season to be extended for an extra week to include a Scottish Cup final.

But the last thing they want is another week of football against Championship opponents in the play-offs with their proud record of never having been relegated at stake.