Saturday’s game between Aberdeen and St Mirren at Pittodrie was quite a strange one – and the Dons will have to be much better to beat Rangers on Wednesday evening.
In the end it was a 2-1 win for the home team, with Joe Lewis conceding and then stopping a penalty to make sure of the three points.
However, in the first half, the unfamiliar three-at-the-back formation Derek McInnes employed had quite a substantial impact on the game, with the Saints able to find space to play through a pretty open Aberdeen and also creating chances from set-pieces.
All credit to St Mirren for turning up and playing so well.
Tony Andreu went through very early, but let the Reds off the hook with a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The visiting centre-backs had four or five headers which could have ended up in the net.
Of course, Jon Obika eventually made the most of Saints’ good football when he netted Ryan Flynn’s cutback, cancelling out an early strike from Don Sam Cosgrove.
Jim Goodwin’s team were playing so well in the opening 45 minutes, but there was still too much space for them to do so, with the Aberdeen defenders not quite sure where they needed to be.
Flynn was able to get down the right flank for the equaliser far too easily.
1–1 at half-time was as good as the Dons could’ve hoped for.
McInnes and his team recognised the problems of the first half by the break and had much more control when they came out for the second half in a familiar shape.
Niall McGinn’s finish obviously then put them back in front.
All that being said, Andreu should still have scored late on from the spot.
It was a good save from Lewis for the initial penalty kick – however, the striker just needed to show a little bit of composure to roll the ball in at the second bite, but couldn’t, hitting it straight back to Lewis.
Of course there is a debate about whether Lewis should have been sent off for committing the foul which led to the penalty being awarded. I’ll admit to being so confused by the rules now, I’m not sure.
To me, Lewis wipes the man out in no man’s land – a man who has knocked the ball past him and is set to be clean through on goal.
Obika taps into an empty net if there’s no contact. Now, I’m all for trying to keep 11v11 on the park, but it seems the double jeopardy rule allows the referee to give a yellow in those circumstances, when it would previously have been red.
What was also worrying about the chaotic end to the game was it came from a big lump up the pitch, not the good play Saints had shown earlier.
It was certainly a lucky escape and very close to being another two points dropped.
Similar to the St Johnstone game – a 1–1 draw – the Dons led 1–0 then found themselves pegged back.
They need to learn to put these teams to the sword when they are in front.
As I’ve said, Saints were good in the first half, but in the second 45 minutes – when Aberdeen were in charge and 2-1 up – they should have been stretching away from the visitors.
I think, unlike Celtic and Rangers, the Dons take a game management approach to try and cling on to the points.
The problem is, if there’s only one goal in it, there’s always the potential for a late sting in the tale.