Aberdeen’s performance in defeat to Rangers was better than their last two displays against the Gers – but ultimately the outcome was the same.
The Dons had lost to Steven Gerrard’s side 1-0 on the opening day of the season and 4-0 at Ibrox in November.
There was more aggression in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat and, with 11 men, it was certainly a more competitive game than the two previous losses to the Govan side.
Derek McInnes spoke before the game about being competitive and playing a high line to stop the visitors dominating possession and it worked for a spell.
But, as the first period wore on, Rangers started to take a grip of the game and started creating chances and then the first half penalty changed the complexion of the contest.
Although James Tavernier missing the spot-kick was a let off for the Dons, being a man down with Ryan Hedges sent off for tripping Alfredo Morelos made it a more difficult task for the home side.
After that, Morelos found his top form and got a couple of goals with Aberdeen forced to sit in for long periods.
However, they did find a way back into the game with the introduction of Matty Kennedy making a difference.
Kennedy and Jonny Hayes managed to get up in support of Sam Cosgrove in attack and Rangers lost their way in the second period.
Once Kennedy pulled a goal back, my feeling was that if Aberdeen could create another decent opening there was every chance they would take it and earn a point.
However, they didn’t create that chance and, although Rangers deserved to win, going down to 10 men made it very difficult for the Dons.
No complaints with penalty and red card
When it comes to the sending off, you can have an opinion about whether it’s fair or unfair.
But the referee can’t have an opinion – John Beaton had to follow the laws of the game and he did.
If there’s no attempt to play the ball – which there wasn’t from Hedges – and you deny a clear goalscoring opportunity, it is a sending off.
There wasn’t a lot of contact, but Morelos was clipped by Hedges.
When looking at the incident, it’s also worth analysing why Morelos was in that position in the first place.
There was a one-two and Morelos gets away from Ash Taylor and Hedges had to try to come and cover.
Hedges tried not to make contact, but he did clip Morelos and, with the way the rules are, he had to sent off.
You can question the rules, but you can’t question the referee’s decision, because he was following them to the letter.
Home struggles against Old Firm
The Dons’ recent record at home against Rangers and Celtic in the Premiership is not good, with the last league victory against either at Pittodrie in September 2016.
At times they have competed well against the Glasgow sides, while on other occasions they have suffered comprehensive defeats.
With the spending power Rangers and Celtic have, it is difficult trying to get results against them.
Aberdeen have backed McInnes as best they can, but they still don’t have the spending power of the Gers and Hoops.
The record will niggle away at the manager and the players and they will want to improve on it.
With Celtic’s struggles at the moment, they are the side the Reds may have a better chance of getting positive results against and they are still in a good place to put the Hoops under pressure in the league.
Although Aberdeen’s record against Rangers and Celtic is disappointing, if they can finish third in the Premiership that would still be a positive season.
With the consistency the Dons have shown under McInnes against all the other sides in the league, it has perhaps made a rod for their own back because the record against Celtic and Rangers isn’t as good.