Aberdeen’s hopes of securing a third-place finish in the Premiership are diminishing rapidly due to the damaging inability to score.
The goal shy Dons are in the midst of a five-game scoring drought that has now extended to 463 frustrating minutes.
In their 0-0 draw with St Mirren, where both teams battled to cope with tough weather conditions, the Reds’ slump continued as they have now won just twice in 11 matches.
This stalemate, the fifth goalless draw in that 11-game run will increase the pressure on manager Derek McInnes to turn around a concerning crash in form.
Chairman Dave Cormack felt compelled to give McInnes his backing last week and a banner reading “In Derek we Trust” was hung outside Pittodrie prior to kick-off on Saturday.
Yet scrutiny will continue unless the Reds haul themselves out of this crisis in form.
There was perfect symmetry between the slump ahead of the St Mirren game and a crash in form exactly a year ago.
In February 2020, the Dons had won two from 10 and gone four games without scoring – identical to the record prior to facing St Mirren.
In 2020 the Dons beat Hamilton 3-1 to end the slump. This year it continues.
Aberdeen now have 10 games remaining this season to overtake Hibs, four points ahead, in the race for third which McInnes recently claimed was the ‘Holy Grail’ for many other top flight clubs.
However, a return of 11 points from 33, with no goals in 463 minutes, does not deliver a compelling argument it can be turned around within that time-frame to secure a third-placed finish.
New strikers need to deliver
Pivotal to hopes of finishing third will be one, or a combination of, the three loan strikers – Florian Kamberi, Fraser Hornby and Callum Hendry – finding goalscoring form. With fixtures fast running out and a looming trip to an improved Celtic on Wednesday, they do not have the luxury of time to bed in. Goals are needed now.
However, the strikers need to be delivered the ammunition via accurate crosses into the penalty area to achieve that.
That has not happened consistently enough in the current slump.
Frustratingly there was little scope for accuracy of crosses in this match as a howling gale battered Pittodrie. Conditions were so difficult, both teams faced a battle to cope with crosses, and even short passes, caught up in the wind.
There was a compelling argument for a postponement.
However, the game went ahead and it made for a brutal watch as both sides fought manfully against the elements.
This was as much a battle against the weather as a battle among teams.
Amid the frustration, though, there was a positive in the delayed debut of on loan St Gallen striker Kamberi.
Signed on transfer deadline day until the end of the season, Kamberi missed the defeat to Hibs and Livingston as his work permit had not been processed.
The paperwork was rubber stamped on the eve of the clash with St Mirren.
Although Kamberi had not played since December 16, he was pitched in from the start, lasted 90 minutes and, despite not overly troubling the keeper, produced solid link-up play and movement.
Kamberi showed enough to suggest he can link up the attack in a similar way to Marley Watkins, on loan from Bristol City, in the first half of the season, allowing others to get the ball in goalscoring positions.
When backing McInnes, chairman Cormack insisted the manager needs time to work with the three loan strikers.
Securing three strikers on loan with limited game time and goals for their parent clubs on deadline day was not the ideal solution to a scoring problem which was glaringly obvious before the window even opened.
However, Kamberi’s performance offers a potential solution to the ongoing goal scoring conundrum.
It was St Mirren that threatened first when Joe Lewis produced a vital near post save to deny Ryan Flynn from six yards out in the eighth minute .
Moments later, Matty Kennedy unleashed a low 25-yard shot that skimmed off the surface, but keeper Jak Alwnick saved.
In the 15th minute, Campbell played through a superb curling through ball to find McGinn, but he could not take advantage and failed to get a shot off.
Keeper Lewis had to be alert in the 21st minute to tip wide a swerving free-kick from Durmus on the right that got caught up in the howling wind.
Kamberi then hit a long-range effort, but it was straight at keeper Alwnick.
In the 41st minute, again a free-kick from Durmus on the right had to be scrambled clear.
In the 56th minute, Hornby clipped in a right-footed free-kick from 25 yards out but the effort flew well wide.
Aberdeen had a call for a penalty when Marcus Fraser slid in to block in the box.
His trailing hand appeared to touch the ball, but the referee waved play on.
In the 77th minute, Jon Obika shot over from the edge of the penalty area.
Aberdeen had a late chance from a scramble in the box, which started from Joe Shaughnessy misjudging the ball.
Lewis Ferguson and substitute Callum Hendry both tried to capitalise, but keeper Alwnick managed to collect to condemn the Dons to another game without a goal.
Aberdeen set up with four at the back in a 4-4-2 formation with Tommie Hoban and Andy Considine centre-backs.
Jonny Hayes was left-back with Ross McCrorie right-back.
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes switched to a back four, having used a back line of three centre-halves for the majority of the season.
The back three were exposed by the pace and movement of Martin Boyle in racing onto through balls in the 2-0 loss at Hibs.
His switch worked as there was far more solidity this time with St Mirren restricted to few chances.
Lewis Ferguson and Dean Campbell played in the holding midfield roles on Saturday, with Matty Kennedy left and Niall McGinn right.
Campbell was impressive, with the youth academy graduate never hiding from the ball, and producing a calm and assured display, despite the conditions.
Florian Kamberi and Fraser Hornby led the attack.
St Mirren went 4-5-1 with Lee Erwin leading the line.
Considine matches McKimmie’s league outings
Scotland international Andy Considine made his 430th league appearance for Aberdeen to move level in third spot with club legend Stewart McKimmie in the all-time list.
Only Gothenburg Greats Willie Miller and Alex McLeish have made more league appearances in the club’s 117-year history.
Considine produced a rock-solid performance in difficult conditions for a centre-back with the howling wind.