Dec 072016

dons-stjohnstone-pittodrieBy Red Fin Hall.

League business returned to Pittodrie on a wet and dismal

8,195 supporters turned up, most of whom were hoping to see a vast improvement in the performances of the last two games.

There were a couple of changes in the lineup, with Peter Pawlett making his first start for ages, and Niall McGinn also starting the game.

The Dons started off very sharp as within the first couple of minutes, first Graeme Shinnie then Jonny Hayes breaking down the left wing, and the home team winning three free kicks and a corner in the first 8 minutes. The visitors were giving a reasonable account of themselves, with a couple weeks of attacks , around ten minutes.

All this changed in twenty minutes, with Aberdeen in control, Shinnie hit a sweet shot from just outside the box, a shot that keeper Jamie Mac Donald may have managed to get a hand to were it not for Pawlett sticking out a foot and deflecting the ball past him and into the net.


The Dons were playing some bonny stuff and playing it with confidence, epitomised when McGinn received a fine ball from Adam Rooney, but its acute angle shot was cut out by the Killie defence .

With 25 minutes gone, referee Stephen Finnie booked James Maddison for diving right on the edge of the Kille box. There seemed to be no argument from the young man.

Number 16, Pawlett, was repaying his manager’s faith in giving him a start, by putting his fast and tricky style to good use, making the Killie players work hard.

There followed a claim for a penalty when a Shay Logan touch came off the hand of a defender. It would have been a soft one if it had been given.

Keeping the pressure up, a Pawlett shot was knocked in at the back post by Anthony O’Connor for Aberdeen’s second goal in the 30th minute. It was also his second for the club.


Killie weren’t lying down, and a long shot in was easily cleared by O’Connor. There followed a great solo run by Hayes, after a pass from AdamRooney, when he cut past the Ayrshire men’s defence and slotted the ball in at a tight, low angle at the near post. So with five minutes left of the first half it was 3-0 – and deservedly so.

The Dons were still trying to score more, with a Maddison shot, after a pass from Hayes, going well over. Aberdeen’s second yellow card was given to Andrew Considine for delivery obstruction. The team as a whole was showing more fight and strength than they did in the last couple of games.

Just before the break Rooney was tripped while heading for goal, but the ref waved play on.

Half time: 3-0

Kilmarnock made two substitutions at the start of the second half when Iain Wilson replaced Jordan Jones and Nathan Tyson coming on for Adam Frizzell.

Five minutes into the second half Aberdeen carried on where they left off before the break, when McGinn shot over from the right side. The fans were certainly enjoying the display that the players were giving.

McLean escaped a booking for speaking out of turn after Killie were awarded a free kick in their own goalmouth. He instead was given a long and stern talking too. Pawlett had to go off for a minute at this incident due to taking my a knock.

Derek McInnes decided to take off Maddison and replace him with Mark Reynolds in the 54th minute.

McGinn set off on a cross field run, he passed the ball to Hayes who was coming in from the left. His shot was easily dealt with. The midfield were linking well, with McGinn back to his best, exemplified by another good cross from the left just to high for Pawlett, and cleared by the Killie defence.

Kenny McLean is more involved than in previous games.

63 minutes in, a corner was taken by McGinn who controlled the return ball wonderfully, but woefully skied the ball over. A few moments later, Logan fed a long cross field pass to Rooney whose first touch was classy. Sadly his second touch was not.

In the 67th minute a fine flick on header from Considine to McGinn only ended up with Killie making a break away, but the finishing shot by Tyson was well over.

McGinn added a well deserved fourth goal when his left footed shot went in at the right corner.


Pawlett was the next player to be substituted when he was replaced by Wes Burns. The substitute picked the ball up in his own half and runs into the opposition goal mouth, passes to McGinn, whose shot went over. Kilmarnock made their final change when Charlie Adams came on for Souleymane Coulibaly.

Rooney then beat the offside trap and tried to chip the keeper, but is was well saved for another corner to the home club.

The visitors got a consolation goal when, in the 77th minute, McKenzie, with an assist from Tyson, put the ball past Joe Lewis.


Rooney became the last change for Aberdeen, when Jayden Stockley replaced him.

With 10 minutes to go, Reynolds conceded a soft foul on the edge of his own box, but the resultant free kick came to nothing.

The Dons were not sitting back, and were trying to get a fifth goal. This came along with just a few minutes left to play, when after more good play from the Dons, was finished off by Hayes when he nipped in front of the keeper for his second of the evening. Needless to say he was named Man Of The Match, although nobody could argue if several others were given the title.

The one minute stoppage time awarded was of little consequence, and when the final whistle did blow, Aberdeen moved back up to third place in the league on goal difference over Hearts.

A deluge of rain and a deluge of goals under floodlights. Scottish Football as it should be.

Final score: 5-1

Next game, at home to St Johnstone, Sat 10-12-16.

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Mar 132016

Aberdeen worried their supporters when Kilmarnock levelled, but went on to win the game, opines Voice reporter Andrew Watson.

merkalndpic3Drizzling rain left the pitch at Pittodrie a touch wet. Hard-Fi’s ‘Hard to Beat’ blasting out the tannoy perhaps a fair assessment of the current situation, as Aberdeen are now only a point behind league leaders Celtic.

Having said that, Celtic still have a game in hand. Aberdeen, with AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ also blaring trough the tannoy, perhaps looking to rock Celtic’s title chances.

Surprisingly enough, when ex-Don Josh Magennis was announced to start for Kilmarnock it incurred no response whatsoever. 

More bizarre was the non response from the Aberdeen faithful when ex-Ger Kris Boyd was announced as on the bench for Killie.

Come the start of the game, Shaleum Logan came in with a key interception, but his team soon lost the ball.

Barry Robson then lofted the ball, but his receiver came in with a heavy touch that ultimately ended up in the keeper’s hands.

The aforementioned Magennis was bounding at former teammates guarding home goal.

Kenny McLean then came in with a low drive that smacked off the far post which was closest chance of the game so far.

The Dons gave away throw in in key area of danger for Kilmarnock. Thankfully, nothing came of it.

Robson’s free kick was caught by the keeper, right at the far post.

McLean’s subsequent linkup play went out for a throw.

Jonny Hayes then instigated some good forward play, and Niall McGinn deflected the ball for a corner. Robson’s delivery was then headed over the bar.

McGinn later ran down the flank to make a cross that went straight into the keeper’s arms.

Aberdeen, at the other end, headed out a threatening Kilmarnock ball.

Magennis then found the back of the net, but play had already been halted by the referee.

The Dons’ seemingly poor defending was, thankfully, rewarded by an offside decision in their favour.

Hayes was then unfortunate with ball across the box, as the keeper happened to be there to mop it up.

McGinn came in with his own ball into the box, but this was mopped up by the Killie back four. He also had a one on one opportunity, but maybe a tad too close to their stopper to knock it past him.

Graeme Shinnie then came into a more forward position, helping the attack. His pass almost unlocked the Rugby Park defence, but their keeper was there to sweep it up.

Aberdeen subsequently came very close to scoring, but were rightfully declared offside.

Aberdeen keeper Scott Brown, down the other end, came with a shaky pass, finding himself under pressure. Eventually though, this was successfully dealt with.

Another wave of attack, instigated by McGinn, was swatted away, as was a subsequent Hayes advance.

Captain Ryan Jack almost had the perfect ball to the other end of the pitch. Kilmarnock rose to see it off though.

Aberdeen then threatened yet again, but no incision or final touch to see it off.

Kilmarnock then, again, had a throw in a key area, followed by a corner. Brown came in with a commanding catch.

Logan then appeared, after much deliberation, to squander a Dons throw straight to a Killie opposite number.

Ashton Taylor was then caught by a slack pass, his control hindering him as he was tackled. The ball found its way to Brown though.

Aberdeen almost, after, found the back of the net. Although it hit the side netting, they found another opportunity to score, via a corner. Robson put it in the mix, and Taylor made up for his slackness with a precise, powerful and emphatic header into the net.

1-0 Aberdeen 37 minutes into the game!

Following this, there was some deft passing, really putting Aberdeen in the driving seat, but they were stopped by a well timed sliding tackle.

Simon Church then came in with an acrobatic diving headed effort.

Brown was then caught trying to clear his lines far too late, but a lucky deflection off an enquiring Killie forward put the ball back in his hands.

McLean, at the other end, found some space but made a tame effort on goal.

Not long after, Hayes was on the floor and was taken off.

‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk was playing though the speakers at Pittodrie. Hopefully, with Aberdeen’s numerous forward advances at play, Lady Luck wouldn’t be a requirement for a Dons victory.

Halftime 1-0.

The second half had barely started, two minutes in fact, when Magennis scored against his former team. This was amidst confusion stemming from a Brown slip up. Magennis bundled it over the line.


Robson’s subsequent free kick lofts itself into the keeper’s hands.

Brown then fumbled a shot, but is safe to get hold of the spilt ball.

Robson put a ball in the box, but it bobbled awkwardly, too awkwardly for his teammates to capitalise on.

Andrew Considine, down the other end, headed an incoming ball back out with some authority.

The Red Army were going bananas at the histrionics of one of the Killie men.

Church clashed heads with his opposite number, but found himself eventually back on the pitch. Cue more boos for referee not clocking the situation and stopping play.

Magennis was then unlucky not to put his team ahead. Considine handled the situation badly.

Aberdeen put one in the box, but nobody was there to finish the move.

Back in their own half, Brown made a diving effort. The save was a comfortable one, though.

There was a flurry of action in the other box, but the keeper eventually got hold of the ball.

Killie keeper, Jamie MacDonald, jumped at full height to mop up an Aberdeen skirmish.

There was then a penalty claim as Hayes was downed as he homed in. Instead, the Dons were awarded a corner.

A diving header from Logan 71 minutes into the game restored the Dons’ lead.

2-1 Aberdeen

Brown came with a vital save after a corner, helping Aberdeen maintain their newly acquired lead.

Niall McGinn was taken off, in favour of Mark Reynolds after 80 minutes. Eighteen minutes prior, Cammy Smith replaced veteran Barry Robson.

Mass boos ensued as Boyd came off the bench to play for Killie.

Aberdeen then found themselves under intense pressure, despite their latest substitution to shore up the defence. There was some action down other end, though.

Three minutes of additional play were then announced.

Boyd had a chance, but really should’ve been adjudged offside. Later he got abuse from the Red Army for assuming he was fouled, and grabbing ball to take a free kick.

With a little perseverance, Aberdeen made it over the line.

Final score: 2-1.

Aug 092015

Aberdeen shrugged off their Euro blues with a comfortable victory over a struggling Kilmarnock side, recounts Voice’s Andrew Watson.

merklandandrewThe weather was fine and conducive to a good game, though the Dons were maybe lackadaisical at first.

They snapped out of it and began to create chances, really trying to get forward and try to inflict some damage.

Eventually, after 37 minutes, Jonny Hayes was in the box and the ball fell to Graeme Shinnie.

Instead of placing it he perhaps caused some initial alarm amongst the Red Army by smashing it with the outside of his foot, rocketing it into the roof off the net.

It was from close range, though from maybe a bit of a tricky angle for mere placement. What a finish.

1-0 Aberdeen!

There was instance or two for the Rugby Park men to draw the game level again after the interval, but that came and went.

Willo Flood was taken down and a penalty resulted, booted by the foot of Adam Rooney.

2-0 Aberdeen eleven minutes into the second half!

Ex-Don Josh Magennis was brought on to beef up Killie’s attacking options, and not merely to elect to avoid any further drubbing.

Cammy Smith and Andrew Considine came on after 66 minutes, replacing by Kenny McLean and Hayes.

Aberdeen then made their third and final change after 83 minutes. This was to take off Niall McGinn and bring on David Goodwillie.

The only other point of note was a ball boy been carted off in a wheelbarrow. Perhaps this was the same lad who was lambasted by Ayrshire men for assuming an Aberdeen goal kick, and not a corner.

It was a solid performance, with some minor flaws, yes, but something to build on for the ensuing league and cup campaigns.

Final score:  2-0.

Dec 222014

Kilmarnock looked to have frustrated the home side but the Dons prevailed in the end, recounts Andrew Watson.

pittodrieThough relatively mild for the time of year, conditions at Pittodrie were only a degree or two off of biting cold.

Initially, the Rugby Park men unsettled the home side but Aberdeen soon settled into the run of play. However, the final product proved elusive for both teams for much of the duration.

The closest any side got in the first half was David Goodwillie chasing the ball down toward the Merkland end and, at a tight angle, hammering the ball off the crossbar.

Undoubtedly, a player of his calibre would usually find the back of the net despite the odds stacked against them, but it wasn’t to be.

The incident that daresay changed the tide of things was Killie’s Darryl Westlake being stretchered off not long before half time.

After the break winger Jonny Hayes came more into his own, and was beating players for fun just about any time he was on the ball.

Eventually his efforts were rewarded when a shot of his deflected fortuitously to the feet of Peter Pawlett, who finished what Hayes had started.

1-0 Aberdeen, finally, after 69 minutes!

Jeffrey Monakana came on the pitch four minutes later, replacing Goodwillie. Like his previous outing at Pittodrie, against Hamilton, he impressed with his vision and touch.

Kilmarnock fought to the very end but Aberdeen squeaked yet another victory, and yet another clean sheet.

Final score:  1-0.

Mar 232014

Two cheap goals at either end of the pitch in the early minutes of the first half ensured this to be a closely contested outing, writes Voice reporter Andrew Watson.

IMG_1248After some light drizzle it was a surprise that injured heroes Jonny Hayes and Peter Pawlett got wet via other means.  That being the pitch sprinklers whilst parading the League Cup, five minutes prior to kickoff.
There was even The Human League being played on the tannoy so the fans could chant ‘Peter Pawlett Baby’ over their hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

The duo were sorely missed in the centre of the park, and that’s where Kilmarnock found their opening.

0-1 Kilmarnock (Kris Boyd) after 11 minutes.

The crowd proceeded for the remainder of the game to jibe Boyd with chants of ‘sumo’, digging at his weight issues over the years.

Aberdeen didn’t have to wait long for a response.  Nicky Low and Adam Rooney passed between each other to force space in the box, and Rooney duly drilled into the corner on the 17 minute mark.


There wasn’t much to write home about after that; in terms of the first half, anyway.  However, Niall McGinn had a bit of a howler; missing at least two clear cut chances to put his team ahead.

Things appeared to be approaching into stalemate in the second half, but tactical changes ensured against this.  Low was called to the bench in favour of Barry Robson after 61 minutes.

This geed up the Reds, and defender Mark Reynolds delivered a ball which Ryan Jack found on the 72 minute mark.

2-1 Aberdeen!

McGinn was then replaced by Declan McManus fourteen minutes later.

The Dons held their nerve against the Rugby Park men, eking out a valuable victory.

All in all it’s good they’re managing to win in such a fashion as this.  I mean to miss numerous chances to score, and not to regret it.

Final score:  2-1.

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Dec 162012

It is difficult to show more empathy towards  injury-stricken Dons when the fare on offer is as drab as this! Andrew Watson reports from Pittodrie.

The way things were going initially, it looked like this was heading towards a rather unremarkable 0-0 draw.

As it was though, we were served up controversy and bookings aplenty just on the edge of half-time as a Killie man came one on one with Langfield before being taken down.

Although he was the last man, a red card for Langfield seemed a bit harsh as the felled man was not exactly in the best of positions to score.

The weight of expectation fell on the shoulders of substitute keeper Brown, who came on for Fallon after 45 minutes to face the resultant penalty kick.

0-1 (Kelly) after 45 minutes.

Ignoring the fact they were a man and a goal down, it seemed a curious decision to take Fallon off the pitch.  Now, I must admit that I’ve given the Kiwi a hard time of late, but maybe his resurgence since scoring at Fir Park merited a longer stay on the pitch?

The only fault I could find with him is something I’ve observed throughout his stay at Pittodrie.  This is his propensity not to go for headers and try and win high balls that come towards him.  Why put a ‘big man’ at the top of the pitch if he doesn’t pose an aerial threat?

Back on for the second half, and the Dons were dominating possession.  Plenty of passing in and around the Killie box, but nothing incisive.

Magennis did manage to bundle it over the line, but was cautioned for his clash with the Killie keeper.  Masson then came on for Considine after 70 minutes.

It wasn’t the Dons’ day as the same Ulsterman rocketed a high ball towards goal.  We hoped for a miracle earlier, and that Brown would save the penalty.  Maybe the ball would burst the roof of the net?  Not a chance, the ball smacked right off the crossbar!

However, if every dog has its day, eventually, then the terrier-like efforts of Shaughnessy were applauded when he was replaced after 80 minutes.

He was the only good thing about this game, from an Aberdeen point of view.  He’s in the mould of Ryan Jack, but surprisingly silky and a bit taller.  That can only be a good thing, as a defender!  Youth replaced youth as McManus came on for Shaughnessy.

Six minutes later, the Rugby Park men then got away on the break and cut the ball back across the mouth of the Dons goal.  The ball was expertly dispatched.

0-2 (Kelly) after 86 minutes.

To be honest, the angle available to the scorer favoured Brown more than anyone else.  Would Langfield have got a touch to it?  Who knows, and truth be told, who cares?

Well, some of the Main Stand faithful did.  They remained adamant the delivery into the box was received from an offside position.

Perhaps they were right.  I noticed a tendency of our back four to try and spring the offside trap upon wayward attackers prior to this point in the game.

No joke, I spent many moments earlier thinking ‘what if the next time, they put their hands up for offside, and neither the referee nor linesman agree?’

Anyway, it came to fruition and I have no reason to be smug.  Why would I be when it’s at the expense of my own football team?

Another rather annoying tendency also became apparent.

Perhaps after realising that plenty of possession in and around the penalty area without forward motion was pointless, they changed tack  and began lumping the ball forward in hope of that elusive long ball that would unlock Killie’s back four.

Unfortunately these balls were lacking in accuracy, and very disappointing to watch.

It’s therefore I admit, in a rather shamefaced manner, that I couldn’t wait for the game to end.  When they announced four extra minutes I could have cried.

Final score:  0-2.

As I have previously expressed, I worry what will happen to the Dons when Fraser leaves.  They’ll really have to rethink tactics to salvage this season.  When you lose a player with so much creativity, coupled with the frustrating inconsistency of fellow wingers like Hayes, attacking plans go out the window.

I remain convinced any victory gained in Fraser’s absence will come out of dogged endeavour rather than the skill and incision he brought to the fore.

Dear Santa, a Scottish Cup – against all odds – for Aberdeen, please?

Sep 202011
Aberdeen 3 – East Fife 3 – East Fife win 4-3 on penalties –  20/9/11

This latest embarrassment will not be altogether unfamiliar to those who sat through similar capitulations against Queen of the South, Queens Park, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers, or even the European humblings against Bohemians and Sigma Olomouc.  Philip Sim reports.

It’s got to the point where it’s not even surprising any more. On each occasion Aberdeen appear poised to take a step forward, they take two backward.

No matter how many times it happens, it still hurts. So what went wrong?  There was a lot more to this result than East Fife’s goalkeeper saving more penalties than Gonzalez for Aberdeen.

One attempt at an excuse is that it was a weakened Aberdeen team. Craig Brown has apologised for making wholesale changes to a side that played relatively well at the weekend – but many of them actually made sense.

David Gonzalez returned to the side after missing the weekend encounter with Kilmarnock due to his wife going into labour, and the return of the first-choice goalkeeper can hardly be said to have weakened the team.

That said, he looked distinctly flat footed at East Fife’s second goal although some would argue that Jason Brown would not have been tall enough to reach Matthew Park’s lob in any case.

Scott Vernon and Darren Mackie were partnered in attack – Brown’s tried and tested front duo – and while it’s debatable whether they have passed that test at least both of them have scored this season. By contrast, Mohamed Chalali has not scored at club level.

Indeed, after Vernon and Mackie were withdrawn for Chalali and Rory Fallon, the Dons seemed to struggle even more to find the way to goal. Only Josh Magennis looked lively – if not particularly dangerous. He found shooting space quite often but invariably shot straight at Mark Ridgers in the visitors goal.

Of the other changes, only Youl Mawene and Isaac Osbourne were missed as Rob Milsom’s recent form, Saturday’s game against Kilmarnock in particular, scarcely merited him a place in the side.

In any case, shouldn’t any eleven players on the first team books at Pittodrie be able to dispatch a side bottom of the second division?

Does this mean that Aberdeen’s second string players are not even second division standard?

To be fair, the Dons did fairly batter the Fifers’ goal. The home side recorded 25 shots on goal. However, too many were driven straight into Ridgers’ arms or sent tamely wide or over the bar. The Dons showed a complete inability to break their opponents down, often shooting from outside the box or even further afield.

Fair play to East Fife. They capitalised on the only three chances they had in the match. That Aberdeen scored the same number of goals from more than eight times the chances is testament to how poor the Dons’ finishing is at the moment.

Almost as much of a worry is the defence, a supposedly SPL standard defence which shipped three goals to a second division side. Oddly enough, Andrew Considine actually had a pretty good game at centre half, and while Rory McArdle didn’t look quite as composed, especially with the ball at his feet, he at least popped up with a goal. Aberdeen’s problems were at full-back.

Strangely this was the first game of the season that Aberdeen have started with two recognised full-backs in that position, rather than having midfielders or centre-backs fill in at one or both. Chris Clark played the majority of his games at Plymouth as a right-back, while left back is Ricky Foster’s strongest position – although Foster himself might argue otherwise. Despite this, the two looked completely and utterly clueless in defence.

Perhaps they were too focussed on going forward – both spent much of the game in the opposition half, swinging in crosses which never quite reached anyone. Whatever the reason, they provided absolutely no defensive cover. Foster usually bails out the centre-backs with his pace – against East Fife, Considine actually had to come to his captain’s rescue on several occasions. Clark  looked weak. He dithered pathetically while the Fifers scored their third, and while he thumped into one or two tackles impressively he wimped out of far more.

After a similarly hopeless displays against Hibs and Kilmarnock, the Red Army will be beginning to wonder what happened to Clark while he was in England – and precisely why he’s been signed to a three year contract. It was no surprise to anyone in the stadium when it was he who missed the final fatal penalty.

The biggest failure was one of belief. As the second half wore on it became increasingly clear that the heads had gone down, and that the Aberdeen players simply did not believe they could win the game back. They were out fought and out thought by a team which lost 6-0 at home to Dumbarton a few weeks previously.

Maybe sometimes there has to be a shock result – a giant-killing – as these things simply happen in football. But why do they always seem to happen to Aberdeen?
Another year, another humiliation, and once again the Red Army are left with more questions than answers about just where their club is headed.

Sep 182011

Last week’s debacle at Easter Road raised the question of whether Aberdeen and Hibs were bottom of the league because they were playing badly, or if they were playing badly because they were bottom of the league. The question might be answered in that this weekend, against teams in the top six, both sides played out highly entertaining 2-2 draws. Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.

The Dons might justifiably feel they should have won their match with Kilmarnock, but the fact they trailed 2-0 after half an hour will leave the Red Army more positive about the result.

Aberdeen dictated much of the proceedings, winning a string of corners and creating chances early on, but despite the home side’s dominance it was the visitors who took an advantage into the interval by scoring with their only two attempts of the half.
The Dons showed resilience to come back from two goals down, and pressed hard to find a winner in the closing stages.

At the outset, many of last week’s questionable tactics remained in place – Kari Arnason, the most composed player in Aberdeen’s overstaffed central midfield, was again deployed needlessly at centre back, pushing Andrew Considine out to left back. Another midfielder, Ryan Jack, featured at right-back, while full-back Ricky Foster was played on the left wing. The other wide position was filled by central midfielder Fraser Fyvie.

Jack and Arnason are convincing near enough wherever they play, but Fyvie is not a winger, nor is Considine a full-back. And what is there to gain by pushing Foster forward into midfield? He looks fine bombing forward to the byline to get a cross in, but when he cuts inside he looks rather lost and confused. All of the good things he does from left midfield he was doing anyway from left-back, as well as using his pace to cover the defence. Moving him into midfield only serves to shuffle other players around to compensate.

Despite being played out of position, big Andrew Considine played out of his skin. While he still displays all the characteristics of a centre half – strong physically on or off the ball, good in the air – he also showed great attacking intent, thundering forward at every opportunity and whipping in some excellent crosses.

His goal was brilliantly taken, especially given it was with his weaker right foot, a finish that few of the Dons front line could have conjured in the current drought.

That said, the Dons featured an all-new strike pairing against Killie, with Rory Fallon and Mohamed Chalali both handed their first start in a red shirt.

Chalali showed good intent with some direct running at the visitor’s defence, and while Fallon won everything in the air the pair didn’t quite click as a partnership. Too often the Algerian directed his runs the wrong way to meet the Kiwi’s flicks, and after being moved out to the wing it was little surprise when Chalali was hooked at half time for the ultimately equally ineffective Peter Pawlett.

Fallon looked the part as a traditional target man, something the Dons have lacked this season, and almost gave his side the lead with a second-half header which rebounded back off the crossbar. This came after he was ludicrously booked in the first half by referee Iain Brines, supposedly for simulation – while the challenge in question may not have merited a penalty award, it certainly wasn’t a dive.

Brines gave Fallon absolutely nothing all afternoon, leading some to speculate that the whistler’s wife may have run off with a Kiwi.

In a way Craig Brown should thank Brines for his blunder, as that was the turning point in the match – after the second Killie goal, the heads had gone down, and it was only after the penalty controversy that the Dons looked fired up and hungry for vengeance.

Aside from the defensive lapses for the goals – one a missed header by Youl Mawene, who made amends by heading the equaliser, the other an instance of the entire midfield going to sleep at once – the main disappointment for Aberdeen was the attendance, a paltry seven and a half thousand. Although perhaps thanks to the quality of the match and the questionable officiating, the crowd produced one of the best atmospheres Pittodrie has seen this season.

The dwindling gates might have more to do with the accumulated horrors of the last couple of seasons than Aberdeen’s performances this term, but Brown‘s side could get the numbers heading in the right direction with a couple of wins.

Hopefully a good performance against lowly East Fife in the cup next week will generate some interest in the next home match, an experimental Friday night encounter with Dunfermline, and get the faithful flocking back to Pittodrie.

Sep 122011

Sometimes nil-nil can be a deceptive scoreline, masking an exciting encounter between two evenly-matched sides. Sometimes, though, there are simply no goals because neither team is good enough to score any. This was a match almost completely devoid of incident, a scrappy bottom of the table snooze-fest from which neither team even deserved a point. Philip Sim reports from Easter Road.

The grim performance on the pitch induced a funereal atmosphere in the stands, as it slowly dawned on supporters of both sides that they’d just paid in excess of twenty pounds to be bored and depressed.

You could be forgiven for initially assuming that at this stage of the season, Aberdeen and Hibs are in false positions at the bottom of the SPL.

However on Sunday’s evidence the position is more than deserved – few teams in the league could conspire to serve up such dire, uninspiring fare.

At times the game was a comedy of errors – an Aberdeen player would walk the ball straight out of play, only for his Hibernian counterpart to send the throw-in straight back to a red shirt, inevitably ending in another aimless long-ball to no-one in particular. An actual football team could have run riot against either side.

The Dons lined up in a less than ambitious 4-5-1 formation. Really, such a formation should see a team dominate the midfield, but Aberdeen rarely managed to string three passes together in the middle of the park, let alone control it. Isaac Osbourne was effective as usual in spoiling opposition play, but Fraser Fyvie and Rob Milsom appeared completely incapable of retaining possession. Ricky Foster’s pace and drive down the left provided a few meagre highlights, but on the other flank Chris Clark put in an absolutely dreadful performance, with the Dons looking characteristically short on width or creativity.

The failings of the five were compounded by those of the one, with lone striker Scott Vernon looking increasingly isolated and starved of  service. In a functional 4-5-1 the midfield is supposed to push forward to support the striker, maybe turn into a 4-3-3 when attacking, but the Dons showed little offensive invention or ambition save the occasional foray forward from Fyvie.

Vernon is a penalty-box striker, not a target man. He is not the man to win flick-ons or hold the ball up for his team-mates – he’s a finisher, not a creator.

He prefers to play facing the goal, rather than with his back to it, so in short he could not be less suited to the lone striker role. This does not however explain why he spent two thirds of the game at Easter Road offside.

At the other end of the park, Hibs had more of the ball but offered few real threats, mostly being restricted to long-range efforts. Garry O’Connor conspired to make Youll Mawene look quick, and what the Hibs front line conjured up was easily dealt with by David Gonzalez.

The home side’s toothless attack is one of the reasons they’re bottom of the league, so really there was no need to move Kari Arnason back into defence. He strolled through the game as usual, and his composure and presence could have made a huge difference to the Dons midfield, which was relatively transparent throughout. Moving the Icelander to centre back meant shuffling Considine out to left-back, and with Rory McArdle in the other full-back position there was never a hope of any attacking ambition from the full-back position.

By contrast when Hibs came forward down the flanks they often outnumbered the visitors’ defence, because their full-backs were willing to overlap and leave their own half.

To be fair to Considine and McArdle, neither of them are full-backs, and neither can be blamed for their manager’s decision to play them there. Meanwhile, the players in the Aberdeen squad who have looked reasonably exciting in recent weeks – Josh Magennis and Peter Pawlett – were left on the bench, and only introduced after the game had settled into a coma.

Seven games of the season gone, then, and Aberdeen have still only scored in one of them. The complaints remain the same, of width, creativity and attacking ambition, while the excuses grow thinner by the game – the return to the bench of Yoann Folly heralds the last of the team’s injury worries, and the squad has had ample time to gel.

Other teams who have undergone similarly large rebuilding jobs over the summer have settled much more quickly – fourth placed Kilmarnock and SPL new boys Dunfermline for example. With former Plymouth striker Rory Fallon reportedly offered a contract, Brown obviously recognises the shortcomings of his side, but patience in the stands is beginning to run thin – the Dons need to start producing results soon.

Jul 212011

With the SPL’s big kick-off looming, what kind of shape are Aberdeen in, compared to the other top six challengers?  Philip Sim takes a hard look at how next season is shaping up.

Aberdeen, Hearts, Dundee United, Hibs and Motherwell are the traditional and some might say obvious candidates to join Rangers and Celtic in the top six by next May.

Kilmarnock were a surprise inclusion last season, but have lost their manager and star player over the summer and have recruited relatively little proven quality, save perhaps Gary Harkins, who is yet to prove himself at SPL level.

Hearts have made some good signings and generally seem to have strengthened across the board, despite their ongoing off-the-field difficulties. Many of their signings are more squad players than stars, but they have retained the core of last year’s team, and if they can hang on to the likes of Rudi Skacel and Marian Kello then realistically third place is theirs to throw away.

Dundee United meanwhile has lost an entire midfield in Buaben, Gomis, Conway and Robertson, as well as defensive cover in Darren Dods. Their only quality recruitment has been Willo Flood – how much of the budget has he taken up? – and the less said about Hibs reject John Rankin the better. They have young players coming through, but they desperately need to make some signings before the window ‘slams shut’ or their top six position is far from assured.

Hibs have spent most of the summer in a weird state of limbo, with manager Colin Calderwood openly pondering a move back to Nottingham Forest. They have made two very good signings in Ivan Sproule and Garry O’Conner, both proven players who know the club well. However they have lost eleven players over the summer, including Liam Miller, Derek Riordan and Colin Nish, so their squad is pretty thin on the ground. Their traditionally excellent conveyor belt of youth talent can’t prop up the team forever, but how many quality players are going to be attracted to a club whose manager might jump ship to be an assistant in the Championship?

Motherwell is in a similar position to Dundee United in that they haven’t recruited nearly enough players. They have made one good signing in Michael Higdon, but he will act as a direct replacement for Hearts-bound John Sutton.  They’re currently sitting at eight out and just two in. Retaining Steven Jennings is a plus, but it would be very difficult to claim the Steelmen have strengthened.

So now to the Dandy Dons…how does their summer match up? At first glance, the picture appears slightly gloomy – it seems like eight out and five in. Nine out really, with Jamie Langfield incapacitated for the foreseeable future. However on closer inspection, Craig Brown has paid attention to where Aberdeen were found lacking last season and has strengthened the core of the team.

This does not look like a team which will be over-run in midfield or indeed a team which will give up cricket scores at Celtic Park

The starting back four this term could be completely different to that which was bested so regularly last term. The team has two players with experience of playing full-back in Foster and Chris Clark, and two players with strength, presence and experience at centre-half in Youl Mawene and Kari Arnason.

The addition of Arnason and Osbourne will bring a bit of steel to the team, a bit of fight that was crucially missing last season.

Although this remains in the realm of speculation, this does not look like a team which will be over-run in midfield, or indeed a team which will give up cricket scores at Celtic Park.  There are also a number of very adaptable players in the squad, including Clark, Osbourne, Foster and Arnason, who can play both defence and midfield, which will come in handy when the team suffers its traditional mid-season injury crisis.

The only thing the Dons are missing right now is a replacement for Sone Aluko and Chris Maguire, a bit of creativity and flair going forward. A signing needs to be made here, as the entire burden cannot be placed on youngsters like Peter Pawlett, Fraser Fyvie and Nicky Low.

Craig Brown has publicly made a flair striker his priority, and if he secures this – probably through a loan from  England – then Aberdeen will be in excellent shape to take the fight to the other top six challengers for those precious European qualification spots.