There was a sense of deja vu regarding Aberdeen’s second 1-0 defeat at Parkhead in 10 days, where they delivered another strong second half performance – but no points.
In the build-up to the match, boss Derek McInnes claimed Aberdeen need “big results” to ignite the bid to overtake Hibs in the battle for a third-place finish.
With only seven games remaining in the Premiership campaign, time is rapidly running out for those “big results”.
Yet again, the Dons were unfortunate not to take anything from Parkhead, but they are now at the stage of the Premiership campaign where it is points and not plaudits that matter.
At least there was the unexpected bonus of third-placed Hibs slipping up when losing 2-0 to Motherwell at the weekend.
With Hibs holding a four-point advantage in third, and a game in hand, the Easter Road side are firmly in pole position to secure that place.
Only a combination of a Hibs slip-up and an Aberdeen run of winning form will see the teams swap places in the league.
Denied by woodwork twice in 10 days as Dons look to use Celtic’s dead ball deficiencies to their advantage
For the second successive match at Parkhead, Aberdeen were denied a deserved result by the woodwork.
Florian Kamberi hit the post in the 1-0 defeat 10 days previously.
Before the game, Celtic’s Achilles heel – 43% of goals conceded coming from set-pieces – had been raised as a route by which the Dons could win this one.
The home side’s flaw was exposed when Ash Taylor rattled the bar with a powerful header early in the match.
Had Taylor’s header gone in against a Celtic side low on confidence and with interim boss John Kennedy in the dugout, it could have been a very different match – and outcome.
Twice Aberdeen have been denied by millimetres on the frame of the goal.
Small margins. Painful, costly margins.
There was a clear plan to test the Hoops under dead ball deliveries.
Specialist Niall McGinn, who helped end Aberdeen’s long goal drought by crossing to Callum Hendry against Kilmarnock, started and Opta stats indicate he provided three times more crosses than any other Aberdeen player.
McGinn delivered 10, six of them classed as “good” that caused Celtic problems. Closest to this tally was Jonny Hayes with three.
Despite being the striker who ended the miserable goalless run, Hendry remained on the bench until the 60th minute when he replaced Dean Campbell.
The on-loan St Johnstone striker showed his potency in the air with a superb headed goal.
His aerial strength could have been dangerous against a Celtic side proven vulnerable at set-pieces.
Bad luck – but lack of cutting edge is the big issue
There is an argument Aberdeen have been unfortunate not to take at least a point from Parkhead in both trips to the stadium this month.
Hitting the woodwork in games that were so tight is bad luck.
However, over a league campaign now 31 games deep, you make your own luck and the Dons’ position in fourth has nothing to do with ill fortune.
The lack of cutting edge from open play again cost Aberdeen in this one.
The Reds have now gone 10 games since scoring a goal that did not come
from a dead ball delivery from a free-kick or corner.
That was Matty Kennedy’s long-range strike in the 2-1 loss to Rangers at Pittodrie on January 10.
They can still rectify it as the bid for third may look precarious, but it is far from dead.
Aberdeen must win their two games against Hamilton (h) and Dundee United (a) to ensure they are still in the mix in the post-split games when Hibs will be set to come to Pittodrie. The Dons must set that up to be a third-spot showdown.