Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.
What’s in the Box?
For reasons best known to herself the daughter of the Laird of Balquhain made a bet with a stranger that she could bake a batch of bannocks in less time than it took him to build a road to the top of Bennachie.
Of course the stranger was the devil himself and on losing the bet he turned the unfortunate lady to stone as she fled from his advances.
This late Pictish monolith dates back some 1200 years and stands 3.2 metres tall.
There are over 200 known symbol stones in Scotland and many more of them displaced or built into walls and dwellings. The Maiden Stone is probably the finest example of these.
In the last 10 years or so the Maiden Stone has been boxed up during the winter months. It’s not a pretty sight. An upright coffin like box greets the visitor with a sign which reads:
“This temporary shelter will be in place until the spring. It has been fitted to protect the site from the combined effects of rain and frost over the winter months.”
Inside the box is The Maiden Stone, one of the finest Pictish monuments in the north east of Scotland.
Or is it all an illusion?
Royal Mail (Type C) Pillar Box – Painted in Post Office Red
In 1840 Rowland Hill suggested the idea of roadside pillar boxes for use in the UK mainland. Folk at that time seemingly took their letters to the post office for posting and the postal authorities were keen to grow the communication business using modern innovations. These were pre-internet days of course but the railways were about to revolutionise both transport of goods and mass communication.
Letter boxes were already being used in Europe of course. However there were no roadside letter boxes in the British Isles until about 1852, when the first pillar boxes were erected at St Hellier in Jersey at the recommendation of one Anthony Trollope (author of Barchester Towers and Framley Parsonage), who at the time was working as a Surveyors Clerk for the Post Office.
In 1853 the first pillar box on the UK mainland was erected at in Carlisle. A similar box from the same year still stands at Barnes Cross in Dorset and is seemingly the oldest pillar box still in use today on the mainland.
In Scotland there were protests when the first boxes made in the reign of Elizabeth II were produced. These bore the inscription “E II R” but there were objections because Queen Elizabeth is the first Queen of Scotland and of the United Kingdom to bear that name, Elizabeth I having been Queen of England only.
After several “EiiR” pillar boxes were blown up and vandalised by Scottish Nationalists protesting “No Unlimited Sovereignty for Westminster in Scotland” including one in the Scottish capital, the General Post Office (as it was at that time) had the remaining boxes North of the border replaced with ones which only bore the Crown of Scotland with no Royal cipher.
This is one such box and it sits proudly outside the main postal depot in Inverurie.
It is I think a Royal Mail (Type C) Pillar Box of 1950’s circa and is painted in that familiar Post Office Red paint unlike its Irish counterparts which are in Green or those strange metallic pillar boxes from the Greek Games of 2012.
I use it often but wonder who would want to spend their entire working day cooped up inside such a confined environment.
Bus shelters were once boringly functional affairs built by local councils. Some were iron-and-glass edifices covered in peeling municipal green paint. Others were made of brick and some in rural areas even had thatched roofs.
Then in 1969, two advertising billboard companies, “More O’Ferrall” and “London and Provincial”, joined together to form a company called Adshel.
The idea behind the new firm was simple. Adshel would supply bus shelters to local authorities for nothing in return for the right to display advertising on them. In the early 1970s, it began installing its very first shelters in Leeds.
It’s a big market. But quite how big can be hard to find unless you dig into the National Public Transport Data Repository at http://data.gov.uk/dataset/nptg
There you can find out which place in Britain has the least bus stops – and which the most. Seemingly the Shetland Isles have the least at only 168 while Greater London has a massive 24,122!
I think that this inequality is a brilliant argument for Scottish Independence.
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Foiled by Jock Frost, David Innes got his weekly fitba fix last weekend at Pittodrie. Paying more than three times the cost for about a tenth of the entertainment he relishes in the proper mannies’ fitba Highland League environment is an indicator of why attendances might be falling. He’s thawed out, and here are his thoughts.
We Dons fans have learned to be canny, although air-headed, cliché-addicted professional sports commentators still accuse us of living in the 1980s. Only my fashion sense, Chick.
So, when the pre-match talk centred on the potential for the Reds to achieve top 6 SPL status, we backed off. We’ve been down in the gutter this season already, and believe me, we were looking at few stars.
We know better than to hope.
And it’s a good job that we’ve gone from Real Madrid to realism. We created fewer chances in 90 minutes of honest, earnest endeavour than in almost any match I’ve seen at Pittodrie in my 46 years of attendance.
Our squad is solid. Even the loss of Richard Foster has had little obvious effect as Clark Robertson, surely a future star, calmly did the left back stuff and on-loan Mark Reynolds looks skilful on the ball, able in the centre of defence and comfortable wearing The Sacred Red. Apart from a late slip which Jason Brown rescued, Andy Considine is an effective centre half. He must surely get his ability from his ma.
Upfront, Mohamed Chalali opened brightly but faded after sustaining an injury. Scott Vernon, though, is suffering from not getting the service he needs from midfield and often finds himself dropping back to pick up balls which he would prefer to see served to him in the box. That’s where he’s at his best. He’s the most effective and consistent penalty area centre forward we’ve had since Arild Stavrum’s departure for Istanbul left linesmen with curiously well-developed flag arms.
Our problem is between defence and attack, in the bit where we should be making chances for the strikers. So Milsom who gives us some width on the left was missing but there seem to be few alternatives when he’s missing. Neither Ryan Jack, who proved his youthful fallibility by having a poor game by his own standards, nor Chris Clark who was, well, he was Chris Clark, were able to make much of things on the wings. I’ve seen more width on a Mod’s lapels.
As it turned out, Rory McArdle, a solid centre half was played at right back. He didn’t do much wrong, but hearty and committed though he is, a right winger he isn’t. For his endeavour and his determination to keep overlapping when it patently isn’t his strength yet always being back in position to repel the few Kilmarnock attacks of any note, he was my man of the match.
We have twelve days to try to add a creative edge to our satisfying solidity before the transfer window closes – or “slams shut” as cliché demands. We seem to have sorted out the issues which saw us go on that scary losing streak in October and November, but it’s still not pretty to watch and victories will be scrambled and nervous single goal affairs rather than comfortable, carefree, toorie-at-a-jaunty-angle net-bulging festivals.
Without the creativity of wide players or a wily tricky schemer to take on a couple of defenders and deliver a decent standard of final ball to the strikers, we’ll struggle to make the split in the top 6 and falter in the Cup after we complete unfinished business against Queen of the South.
This match really underlined how the sport of football can toy with the emotions of its followers. At half time Dunfermline would have bitten off hands for a point, but in the end it was Aberdeen who felt relieved to snatch a share – and yet, both teams will feel as if they could or should have won the game. Philip Sim reports.
The Dons undoubtedly controlled more of the match and created a greater quantity and quality of chances, but it was the home side who somehow found themselves 3-1 ahead – and indeed, it could have been 4-1 if not for a terrific save from visiting keeper David Gonzalez.
Ten minutes of madness at the back soured what had been developing into a decent Aberdeen performance.
It’s little consolation that the Dons have now quadrupled their away goals tally for the season, as they remain rooted second-bottom of the SPL.
Aberdeen’s back line will come in for some deserved criticism after an all-too familiar second-half collapse, but special mention once again has to go to Andrew Considine, arguably his team’s most effective performer this season. The centre half has looked solid in defence and has popped up with vital goals several times already this term, and it was hardly a surprise that he broke the deadlock.
The fact a defender can be so lauded in a team which is shipping so many goals speaks to the nature of this match – while undoubtedly an entertaining affair, it was as laden with negatives as positives. While Aberdeen found themselves trailing 3-1 to a team who haven’t won a home match all season, they then showed great character and resolve to come back and tie the match, and came within inches of a winner in the final seconds.
Craig Brown will again point to his side’s statistical superiority, and while it’s true that the Dons largely bossed the first half, made plenty of chances and won endless corners, all too often they showed profligacy in front of goal. Josh Magennis was the main offender, missing four good chances including an open goal before he finally netted the late equaliser.
A cutting edge up front has been Aberdeen’s key failing this season, and a quick glance at the SPL’s top scorers confirms this – Scott Vernon just makes it the top 15, while Inverness, the only team separating the Dons from bottom of the league, have both Andrew Shinnie and Gregory Tade.
Beyond the striking issues and occasional defensive standstill, the result points out how fragile Aberdeen are, looking distinctly makeshift after losing just a few players to injury. Kari Arnason would be badly missed from any midfield in the country, but really it was Scott Vernon’s absence that hurt the Dons here.
With Rory Fallon withdrawn presumably due to injury after an anonymous first half and Mo Chalali off on international duty – still the only situation where he has actually scored a goal – the absence of Vernon leaves Aberdeen with a front duo of Magennis and Darren Mackie. This is not a pairing which will strike fear into the hearts of many SPL defenders, especially given the scant service they tend to receive – Richard Foster remains the team’s only source of width, given the uninspiring form of eternal substitute Peter Pawlett.
Brown and indeed many of the supporters might be looking forward to the January transfer window and a strengthening of the squad, but there are six more games to be negotiated before then.
Depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty (discounting the rather vocal minority of fans who broke their glass and went home in a huff at 3-1) these six are all winnable games in a league as evenly balanced as the SPL outside of the Old Firm. On the empty-glass relegation-dogfight hand, maybe a point away from home against a fellow struggler is a decent result – but this was the type of game that Aberdeen really need to look to win if they are going to build a move up the table.
The usual Keith battle cry of “Come on Maroons” was always going to carry ambiguity when Banffshire’s finest were drawn against similarly-attired Arbroath in the Scottish Cup 3rd round. David Innes took up his regular spot beside the Kynoch Park dugouts to report for Voice.
After last week’s farcical Kynoch Park abandonment due to floodlight failure, Keith’s Scottish Cup tie against Arbroath was never likely to fall victim the same way. Not when the 200 additional Lichties come to town in noisy and good-humoured spirit. With Arbroath among the SFL Division 2 pace-setters and Keith’s unpredictable form, the clever money was on a comfortable victory for Paul Sheerin’s more experienced squad.
Possibly taking inspiration from Culter’s plucky draw in the early kick off, Keith matched Arbroath’s aggression and pace with no-nonsense safety first defending and might even have had a penalty when the visiting ‘keeper seemed to foul Graham Lonie who himself had just been booked for a challenge where he clearly won the ball.
Arbroath made chances but Keith no 1 Andy Shearer kept them out and a stunning double save from two point blank shots was a first half highlight.
Arbroath spent the early part of the second half putting pressure on Keith, but resolute defending, with Shearer continuing his earlier defiance, kept Keith in it. They almost took the lead, in fact, when Cammy Keith hit the post and when Jonny Smith came on to help the lone striker upfront, they began to trouble Arbroath’s defence.
It was well into injury time when an error by Garry McNamee saw Arbroath’s Steven Doris set free in the Keith box. Inevitably, he went down under a tackle, heroic Keith stopper Kris Niddrie was red-carded, and player manager Paul Sheerin coolly did the needful with the penalty. 94 minutes gone and a cruel exit for the brave Maroons.
All the more galling for a Highland League club was the loss of tournament sponsorship money for innocuous looking yellow cards for Lonie and McAskill and Niddrie’s injury time red.
The draw for Round 4 of the Scottish Cup will be made on Tuesday 22 November. Arbroath will feel fortunate to be in it and will rarely face a fiercer challenge than they did at Kynoch Park.
It’s back to auld claes and porridge for Keith. Due to progress in the Cup, participation in the Aberdeenshire Cup final and enforced idleness as Buckie and Forres replayed cup ties when due to visit, Keith have already lost ground by five games. Add the need to rearrange last week’s abandoned Deveronvale game and the inevitable postponements due to the upcoming Banffshire winter and it’s going to be a long season.
They can take heart, however from this brave performance. Repeat it on a weekly basis in the league and the Maroons will have a huge influence on the destination of the 2011-12 championship flag.
This is my third article on Libya over the seven month period of the ‘revolution’.
The reason that I have written these articles is the general silence and passive acceptance that has taken place on developments in Libya as they have unfolded, and my wish to raise awareness.
I am also greatly concerned in a period when we should have learnt from world wars and numerous conflicts across the world that war is not the solution and leads to untold misery.
Yet war has become our most favoured form of foreign intervention. My intention had been to leave writing a further article until a new government was formed however the atrocities that have taken place at the end revolution have led me to writing the present article. I realise much of what I report goes against what many people have come to believe, but feel it essential to report on what I have read.
My previous arguments have been that rather than relying solely on military intervention, negotiations should have taken place with the prerequisite that elections were held under the auspices of the United Nations. Everyone could have had a say regarding the future of Libya: including those who supported Qaddafi’s green movement who have been effectively disenfranchised.
The African Union and Venezuela offered to broker negotiations and Qaddafi and the then Libyan government on frequent occasions wanted to have a cease fire and negotiations. I also argued that all those responsible for torture and war crimes whether Qaddafi’s regime, NATO or the revolutionary militias should be put before an international court for their crimes.
On the 4th February following International pressure the International Criminal Court have stated that they will be investigating war crimes perpetuated by Qaddafi Loyalists, the National Transitional Government and NATO. Interestingly this has not been reported in the British media but is whatever a significant step forward in terms of justice
If you do nothing else please watch the following video.
Journalist Lizzie Phelan was in Tripoli before during and after its fall. She explains the support for Qaddafi including a 1.7 million demonstration in Tripoli in support of Qaddafi in July, of an entire population of around five million in Libya.
She also reports on how the media was falsely reporting, the democratic nature of Qaddafi’s regime, how many women took up arms and of mass murder by NATO. Have a look on You Tube and compare footage of the numbers demonstrating for Qaddafi and those for the revolutionary fighters.
Seamus Milne in the Guardian has argued that intervention by the West rather than saving public lives has in fact increased deaths at least tenfold. Off course we can never know what might have happened if the then Libyan Government tanks had reached Benghazi. What we do know is that in towns that Qaddafi’s troops did retake, reprisals if any were minimal.
We also know that that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that there have been considerable reprisals by the Revolutionary militias as well as the deaths inflicted by NATO bombing. Estimates of those killed range from 10,000 to 50,00 with many more injured in a population of around five million.
Amnesty International has evidence of mass abduction and detention, beating and routine torture, killings and atrocities carried out by the revolutionary militias. Human rights watch have identified a number of mass graves and discovered 53 bodies with hands tied of Qaddafi fighter’s, some who had clearly been in hospital, near to the hotel used by Qaddafi loyalists just before he was he was murdered. In Sirte over 500 fighters and civilians were killed in the last ten days
There was knowledge by the revolutionary militia and NATO, as evidenced by militia fighters speaking on the BBC that Qaddafi was in Sirte in the last few days of fighting.
Two weeks after the death of Qaddafi the British Government is already planning to send a delegation to Libya to sell arms.
The statement by NATO that they did not now that Gaddafi was in the 80 strong convoy that was bombed while trying to escape Sirte was almost certainly untrue, as was the assertion that the bombings and drone attacks was done to protect civilians as they were fleeing not attacking anyone.
A reporter on the BBC said the carnage was horrific.
What I believe has happened has been a concerted attempt by the revolutionary militias and NATO to destroy Qaddafi’s Green movement supporters in Libya so that they cannot become a force in a future Libya. Mustafa Abdel Jalil the National Transitional Council Chairman and previously Qaddafi’s Justice Minister tried to put the blame of Qaddafi’s death onto Qaddafi’s own snipers despite the horrendous mobile footage that was published on the net all over the world.
Peter Boukaret the head of Human Rights Watch in Libya has seen revolutionary militias burning homes in Tawerga where the majority of people were black Libyans who were seen as supporters of the Qaddafi regime, so that they can never return to their home town.
Under International law combatants should be released at the end of a civil war but the Washington Post has reported that 1,000 Qaddafi loyalists are packed in dingy jails and have faced abuse and even torture. Amnesty International have criticised the EU for leaving 5,000 Sub-Saharan refugees camped in appalling conditions on Libya’s border
Will Self on the BBC has pointed out that arms are still being sold to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco who have equally poor human rights records. He also pointed out that arms on both sides of the Libyan conflict were supplied by Britain. Two weeks after the death of Qaddafi the British Government is already planning to send a delegation to Libya to sell arms.
It could be suggested that it was in the interests of Western Leaders for Qaddafi not to live as at any court hearing he could have informed the world of the arms and human rights deals brokered with the likes of Sarkozy and Blair.
The future of Libya is most certainly in the balance. Abel Hakim Belhaj kidnapped by MI6 and tortured in Libya is threatening legal action against the UK Government, and who is the leader of the militias in Tripoli, has already warned that they will not be taking orders from the National Transitional Council.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil Chairperson of the National Transitional council’s attempts to mollify the Islamic militias is to say that a future state will be based in Shariah law and that polygamy not allowed previously in Libya would be allowed.
The intervention in Libya was never about saving civilians.
This in itself would suggest that women’s role in Libya will take a considerable backward step. Kevin Rudd the Australian Foreign minister has warned that Libya could become another Iraq. There could well be further conflict before any elections take place.
What I would conjecture is that though there will be on-going violence, it is more likely that what will happen is that elections will eventually take place and the winners will be those that are sympathetic to the west. However as corruption increases as in Afghanistan and many people’s living standards fall, that within ten years the Islamic parties as the only alternative will gain electoral or even military victory.
One factor not reported in our media is that Qaddafi through the African Union and with other Middle Eastern states had been pushing for a new currency – the Gold Dinar. This would have been a threat to the Euro and the Dollar. This would have soon come into effect and would have enriched African countries and had a negative effect on western countries. This in itself was a major reason as to why they wanted to get rid of Qaddafi as he had large stocks of gold.
Britain’s new defence secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC:
”I would expect British Companies to be packing their suitcases for Libya”
UK trade and Investment a British Government body has estimated that oil, gas and reconstruction works will be worth over 320 billion dollars over the next ten years.
Daniel Kaczynski a conservative MP and Chair of the parliamentary Libyan committee who has written extensively on Qaddafi and who has been a major influence on British Policy on Libya has suggested that Libya pay back the costs of British military intervention. Previous to the revolution the majority of contracts were going to Russia and China.
There are already significant land and property claims being made by Libyans who lost their property under Qaddafi this will have a significant knock on effect pushing those who have lived in the property and land into poverty
The intervention in Libya was never about saving civilians. It has been about regime change and a grab for lucrative resources and ending Qaddafi’s nearly met aim of creating a Gold Dinar as an alternative currency to threaten the Euro and the Dollar.
In carrying out this policy the revolutionary militias aided extensively by NATO have carried out and continue to carry out genocide of ideological nature against those many Libyans who continued to support Qaddafi.
Another narrow 2-1 defeat against the Old Firm for Aberdeen in a physical battle of a game which lacked entertaining football but was never short on controversy and incident. The Dons conceded a penalty, had an appeal of their own turned down and had a man dismissed in a tough-tackling match which also saw potentially serious injuries for both teams. Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.
Injury to striker Scott Vernon prior to the match left Rory Fallon deployed up front alone, Chris Clark taking his place in a five-man midfield. The suspended Ryan Jack was replaced at right-back by Rory McArdle looking suitably out of his depth in an unfamiliar position.
Overloading the midfield meant much of the action took place there, which played into Aberdeen’s hands in the first half – while free-flowing football and chances were at a premium in the opening period, David Gonzalez in the home goal barely touched the ball, while his side carved out several good opportunities.
Clark in particular had his best game since returning to Pittodrie, buzzing about and chasing every ball kicked in the middle of the park. There was some pressure on Clark to step up after Rob Milsom, who had started brightly, had to be withdrawn with a badly gashed ankle courtesy of a horrific tackle by Steven Naismith.
The Scotland striker managed to badly injure himself in the act, but somehow escaped even a yellow card for the worst tackle of a game which was far from pretty at its best.
The second half was a mirror of the first. While the midfield war of attrition raged on as previous, this time it was Rangers who were making opportunities and it was hardly a surprise when they broke the deadlock. After that, Aberdeen always seemed to be swimming upstream, and despite some excellent play from Andy Considine in particular, the game seemed lost.
Blame is going to be difficult to dole out from this defeat, but beyond the odd simple incidence of poor play several arbitrary factors came into play.
Heavy rain through the first half saw many of the players slipping and sliding around on the slick Pittodrie turf, epitomised by Ricky Foster on his backside as Rangers burst through the score the opening goal.
At the other end of the park the sun rather than the rain was the enemy for visiting keeper Allan McGregor, who allowed Ricky Foster’s shot to apparently pass straight through him. The Scotland keeper had the sun in his eyes, but still should have comfortably dealt with Foster’s effort, which while well struck was heading right down his throat.
Another factor neither team could plan for was the referee – although Aberdeen might have had an idea what they were in for the minute Willie Collum’s name was called out over the tannoy.
Collum has always been greeted with derision by the Aberdeen support, often for good reason – and he will have earned no new fans in this match.
His first action was to book Kari Arnason for his very first tackle of the match, effectively putting the shackles on the combative midfielder for the rest of the match. The challenge might have been worthy of a booking, but Collum didn’t seem to maintain this opinion when it came to several identical tackles from visiting players.
Arnason has quickly become a fan’s favourite at Pittodrie with his no-nonsense attitude and occasional thunderbolt from distance – one of which sent McGregor scrambling in the first half – but he was visibly constrained by the early caution, pulling out of challenges he would usually relish.
The Main Stand linesman also had an absolute shocker, but provided one of the comedy highlights of the match – after the hapless official finally awarded a decision in Aberdeen’s favour in the final minutes, the fans behind him celebrated like a goal had been scored.
After two narrow defeats to the Old Firm, Aberdeen can approach their next run of games with some confidence, starting with the visit to managerless St Johnstone next week. One worry will be the loss of several key players – Rob Milsom and Scott Vernon are now questionable through injury, and Rory Fallon will miss two matches after receiving a rather soft red card in the final minutes. This gives Craig Brown something of a selection headache in a key area of the pitch – and one that has been far from the Dons’ strongest this term.
An Aberdeen defeat at Parkhead is hardly unpredictable – it’s seemed like the Dons couldn’t buy a win against Celtic in recent years, not that they’d have to finance to do so – but at least the team are down to battling, one-goal margins now rather than the capitulations of last season.Philip Simreports.
The Dons scored their first away goal of the season in this match, another little milestone in the crawl towards progress for Craig Brown’s side, who look to have a bit of confidence and fight about them after back to back home wins against Dunfermline and Dundee United.
Two things always seem certain when the men in red play against the hoops though – one of them will be sent off, usually controversially, and Charlie Mulgrew will score or create a goal to haunt his old club. The former Dons full-back often looks shaky during open play, but his set-pieces and surprising ability in the air have been invaluable to Celtic this term, which is perhaps why he was handed the captain’s armband for this match.
Wonderkid Ryan Jack went from hero to villain for the Dons, scoring an excellent solo goal to level the match before being sent off for a second yellow card.
Jack has really come into his own this season and for the most part his performance at Parkhead reflected this, but his dismissal ended the game as a contest.
Prior to that chances had really been at a premium, with both sides working hard to restrict opportunities for their opponents. Celtic had the lion’s share of the play, but Aberdeen were always in the game, fighting hard for every 50-50 ball and showing total commitment across the defence and midfield.
Jack’s first booking was a farce – a goal celebration of any kind is now apparently a foul, or was it merely for having the temerity to score against Celtic? However, he showed his inexperience when lunging into the tackle which earned him his second. He will now be suspended for the next match, the visit of the other Old Firm cheek, which presents Craig Brown with a defensive dilemma.
One option is to make a straight swap and drop Chris Clark in at full-back. This would be the continuity option and possibly the best one, given how well the rest of the team are playing in their respective positions, but Clark’s form has been very poor since his return to the Dons, especially defensively.
Another straight-swap option would be Rory McArdle, but full-back is far from his preferred position.
Brown has shown an admirable resolve to stick with the starting 11 and formation which has been performing well of late, but he is a tinkerer at heart and he may be tempted to move things around a bit.
Kari Arnason has been deployed at centre-half in several big games this season. Might Brown be tempted to move him into defence, shifting Andy Considine to left-back and Foster to right-back?
Arnason has formed a formidable partnership with Isaac Osbourne in the middle of the park and many Dons fans will be eager to see the havoc they could wreack on a Rangers midfield this weekend. Arnason’s composure and reliability are a bonus wherever he is deployed, but these charactistics work best alongside the wrecking-ball style of Osbourne in the middle of the park. One thing is for sure, and that’s that the Aberdeen board need to find some cash to sign these two up to longer-term deals as soon as possible.
Similar to the midfield duo, the defensive partnership of Considine and Youl Mawene is also probably working too well to be broken up. The experience and toughness of Mawene seems to give Considine real confidence, with the big defender already having his best season in the team, and the two complement each other nicely.
Players like Mawene, Arnason and Osbourne – and indeed Rory Fallon and David Gonzalez – weren’t in the side for any of last season’s humblings against the Old Firm, which can only be a good thing. They approach these games full of confidence rather than trepadition, expecting to win, and with these five really representing the spine of the team this really boosts the morale and belief of their team-mates.
During the latter years of the Jimmy Calderwood era Aberdeeen had an excellent home record against Rangers, winning almost every game, and the way the Dons are playing right now, there’s every chance that can be re-established again this weekend.
Back to back wins, a five-figure home attendance creating a good atmosphere, and a team physically dominating a match to a comfortable victory…surely this can’t be the Aberdeen FC of this season we’re talking about?! Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.
Last time out against Dunfermline, Aberdeen created innumerable chances and only visiting stopper Paul Gallacher prevented the match ending with a cricket score.
Dundee United were expected to provide a much stiffer challenge than the SPL new boys, but in truth the Dons did not even have to play as well as they did against the Fifers to record a comfortable victory.
Dusan Pernis is normally a solid, reliable goalkeeper, but he made a bad error in United’s last match against Motherwell, and he seems low on confidence.
He did very well to parry Rory Fallon’s header seconds before Kari Arnason stabbed home the opener, but his kicking was all over the place and even Andrew Considine will be wondering how his trundling effort crept in for Aberdeen’s third.
The visitor’s deficiencies didn’t start or end at the back however.
United lost an entire midfield of talented players over the summer, and have tried to replace them with kids and the extremely average John Rankin. By contrast Aberdeen’s summer signings Kari Arnason and Isaac Osbourne had little trouble in taking the game by the scruff of the neck and absolutely controlling proceedings in the middle of the park.
Osbourne in particular didn’t miss a tackle, and his graft and tidy use of the ball left Aberdeen dominating the midfield, despite Fraser Fyvie and Rob Milsom having relatively quiet games.
At the back, the Dons were if anything even more impenetrable. United captain Jon Daly must think of Pittodrie as a fairly happy hunting ground, but he barely got a touch of the ball in this match with Youll Mawene and Andy Considine winning everything in the air and on the deck. Each also popped up with a goal at set pieces – another mark of how the Dons totally won the physical battle against opponents who are no lightweights themselves.
Up front, Fallon and Scott Vernon are beginning to understand each other better and better as a strike partnership, and the big Kiwi seems to be exactly the foil that Vernon needs to get back to the goalscoring form he showed last season.
Fallon is excellent in the air and at holding the ball up which leaves Vernon free to burst into goalscoring positions. The pair of them pose far more of a threat than the previously tried combinations which used Vernon or Magennis as the target man – as was proved after Fallon’s substitution when the Dons lost much of their bite going forward.
Much like Spain against Scotland in midweek – although admittedly with only an ounce of the panache – Aberdeen bossed their opponents with ease for the first hour, but after going 3 – 0 up were guilty of taking their foot off the gas and allowing the visitors back into the game.
United’s goal was no more than a consolation for the visiting support, but it took some of the gloss off an impressive Aberdeen display.
Brown’s substitutions in particular seemed to take a lot out of the Dons – Chris Clark once again failed to impress, the game seeming to pass him by, and as mentioned earlier the team really seemed to miss the presence of Fallon up front after he was replaced by Magennis.
Willie Collum took charge of the match and did little to endear himself to either set of supporters, strangling any hope of free-flowing football by awarding a succession of needless free-kicks for niggly half-fouls. He turned down a decent penalty claim for both sides in the first half, although his decision to wave away Danny Swanson’s claims were probably quite strongly influenced by his earlier denial of Rob Milsom.
Two wins on the trot is as good a way to bounce back from an embarrassing cup defeat as any, and Craig Brown seems well on the way to having a settled starting eleven.
The next two games are going to be a massive test for his squad’s new-found confidence though, with a trip to Parkhead followed by the visit of Rangers. The Old Firm sides were both held to draws this weekend and Celtic in particular look to be there for the taking – and for the first time this season, Aberdeen look capable of putting a run together.
A Scott Vernon hat-trick sent Aberdeen on the way to doubling their SPL goal tally for the season, and in truth the Dons could and should have scored more as they finally clicked in the final third. Vernon’s main challenger for the man of the match award was Pars goalkeeper Paul Gallacher, who pulled off a string of fantastic saves to keep the score down. In addition to his saves the home side hit the woodwork four times and Rory Fallon missed an open goal.Philip Simreports from Pittodrie.
At long last, Aberdeen looked hungry for goals and showed a more ruthless up front. Many pundits have claimed Vernon and Rory Fallon are too similar to play together, but they showed in this game that they can operate effectively as a partnership.
Fallon is a traditional target man, winning flicks and holding the ball up, whilst Vernon, freed of this responsiblity, is allowed to play in his preferred role facing the goal.
After his first goal he was also playing with real confidence, and looked a completely different player to the isolated and frustrated Vernon of a few weeks ago.
The whole team seemed buoyed by the goals, Rob Milsom and Fraser Fyvie in particular each having their best game of the season.
Milsom was everywhere, buzzing about making passes and penetrating runs, and he was denied the goal his performance deserved by another fine Gallacher save.
The foundation for the win was in the midfield – Kari Arnason and Isaac Osbourne ran Dunfermline ragged, winning every ball in the air and on the deck, giving Milsom and Fyvie more freedom to push forward and create. Dunfermline actually started the game with a five-man midfield, but were so beleaguered from the outset that holding midfielder Andy Dowie was substituted in the first half.
On the rare occasion that the ball made it past the midfield, Andy Considine and Youl Mawene dealt with the threat easily. Considine has really come into his own this season, perhaps thanks to having the composed, experienced head of Mawene next to him.
Mawene and Considine for the most part managed the defence on their own, allowing full-backs Ryan Jack and Ricky Foster to go forward almost constantly on the overlap. Their pace and drive added much-needed width to the side, in support of the central midfielders, Milsom and Fyvie, deployed on the wings.
Foster had an excellent game. Hopefully this performance – combined with the defeats against East Fife and Motherwell – will have convinced Craig Brown that he needs to use his captain at the left full-back position rather than further up the field. Foster is so quick he can be an attacking player even while covering the defence at full-back, and he plays by far his best football from there.
In fact, the same could go for the entire line-up. At last, players were deployed roughly in their proper positions, and it showed. The Dons looked far more comfortable than they have in any game this season, and it seems like after weeks of chopping and changing, Brown has found his best eleven.
One swallow does might make a summer, but this could be the turning point Aberdeen’s season has been waiting for. A free-scoring, morale-boosting win – the only downside is that it has come right before an international break, leaving the team with no chance to build momentum.
By contrast, Dunfermline enjoyed a good start to the season, but reality is starting to set in for the Fifers. Jim McIntyre has built a solid team of experienced pros, with very little reliance on youth or unknown quantities, which should be able compete in a fairly even SPL. As it stands, there are only two points between the sides in the bottom six, and only seven between fourth place and last.
As it is Aberdeen sit ninth, but will take a massive confidence boost from this win and are only one win away from the top six. At times this season they haven’t got the results their performances have merited, but against Dunfermline everything finally came together. The Red Army will be wondering if their side can’t play on a Friday night every week.
Aberdeen are yet to win a game or even score a goal away from home in all competitions this season, and visiting third placed Motherwell was unlikely to yield any joy on this front regardless of the Dons midweek woes.Philip Simreports.
The game itself came close to rivalling Aberdeen’s last away trip at Easter Road for sheer lack of entertainment. In truth both teams were fairly insipid in a game which was always looked like it would be decided by an individual error, and over the last few years those have been the Dons’ speciality.
Craig Brown named what might be his strongest starting eleven, the poor form of many of those players notwithstanding. Despite picking the right players – with the possible exception of perennially overlooked impact sub Peter Pawlett – Brown again insisted on deploying them in almost arbitrary positions.
Kari Arnason, the best midfielder at the club, started at centre half. Chris Clark and Richard Foster, the only full-backs in the team, featured in midfield. Although midfielder Ryan Jack filled in at admirably at right-back, it further emphasised the makeshift nature of the team.
Moving Foster into midfield again resulted in centre-half Andrew Considine playing left-back – a particularly odd decision given the fearsome pace of Motherwell’s Chris Humphrey. This was underlined when the speedy winger – albeit probably fouling Considine in the process – sped away to round David Gonzalez and somehow send his shot up and away off the crossbar. That said, Banchory-born defender Considine – one of Aberdeen’s better performers this term - seemed to have the beating of his man thereafter
It is difficult of course to argue whether playing Foster at the back would have been effective, as it was his blunder while filling in at left-back allowing Bob McHugh in for the only goal of the game. The Steelmen scored their goal pretty much straight from an Aberdeen corner kick – underlining the visitors propensity for getting into a promising position before finding a bizarre way to mess it up.
The Dons’ attack appeared as toothless as ever, despite trying out yet another front pairing in Scott Vernon and Rory Fallon. The theory behind this partnership is sound – Fallon can operate as a target man allowing Vernon to play his preferred role of penalty box striker, playing facing the goal. Whilst the two combined reasonably well on occasion there was precious little creativity in getting the ball up to the strikers, with the Dons often just looking for the agricultural long ball towards Fallon.
The failure of Vernon and Fallon to click is a microcosm of almost everything about the Dons this season. It deceives to look good on paper, and in many ways it should work, but it doesn’t.
Motherwell have not been on a good run of form of late – they were beaten 3-0 at home by St Johnstone and knocked out of the cup by Hibs last week – but for one reason or another Aberdeen cant buy a win right now.
The Dons’ next two matches, home ties against Dunfermline and Dundee United, will complete the first set of fixtures against all of the other SPL sides. So far, Aberdeen have scored against two, and beaten only one. If Craig Brown can not improve this run of form, his side are going to look increasingly like relegation candidates, albeit in a crowded field of struggling sides.
Brown insists that luck has been against his side so far, and he had better hope it turns before long or he may find his coat on a shoogly peg. His players often appear to be just on the cusp of getting it together, so it might not be time to start questioning the manager’s position just yet . That time nonetheless creeps closer with every poor result.