Aberdeen deserved to be beaten by St Mirren in the League Cup and it was a hugely disappointing loss given the importance of the fixture.
November wasn’t a good month for the Dons who have struggled to perform to the standards expected of them.
That was the case again for Aberdeenon Saturday when St Mirren could have been out of sight in the first half such was their dominance.
In cup games with the chance to win silverware on the line it’s important you start the game well, set tone and make it difficult for your opponents.
But the Dons started at a very low tempo, which allowed St Mirren to take control.
Niall McGinn’s goal just before half-time seemed like it might spark the Reds into life, but it didn’t really happen and then they were hit with the late blow of Jamie McGrath’s winner which Joe Lewis should have saved.
But it would be wrong to make Lewis the fall guy for Saturday’s defeat.
The Dons captain has been a top performer during his time at Pittodrie and it shouldn’t be forgotten he saved a point against Hamilton last Wednesday with a stunning late save.
You can’t point the finger solely at Lewis because overall the performance wasn’t good enough from Aberdeen.
Individual errors can always happen and Lewis made a mistake, but there were many more elements of the display that weren’t up to scratch.
The disappointment of the defeat in Paisley was compounded by Celtic getting eliminated by Ross County on Sunday.
So often in recent seasons the Hoops have stood in Aberdeen’s way and stopped Derek McInnes’ side claiming silverware.
Now when Celtic are out, the Dons are as well, which is a bitter pill to swallow – but there can be no complaints about the outcome because St Mirren deserved their victory.
Overall it’s been a very disappointing November for Aberdeen.
Right at the start of the month they lost to Celtic in the semi-final of last season’s Scottish Cup, they’ve also been heavily beaten by Rangers and drawn with Hamilton in the Premiership before being put out of the League Cup by Saints.
The only bright spot was the victory over Hibs in the league and that was the only time in November that the Reds played to the levels expected of them.
During the last month, the Aberdeen squad has been tested with injuries and players missing because of Covid-19.
Although there appears to be a lot of strength in depth there, the Dons squad has been found wanting in recent weeks when that depth has been needed.
The fringe players that have been given an opportunity haven’t staked the claim I expected them to and that’s been disappointing.
There’s still plenty to play for despite Saturday’s loss. The Dons are still third in the Premiership and with the Scottish Cup to play for in the new year.
However, performances will need to improve to remain at the top end of the league table and to challenge to win the Scottish Cup because the displays in November have been below-par.
The Reds can’t allow this recent run to become a poor run over a longer period. The focus has got to be on maintaining third spot in the Premiership as well as trying to get closer to Celtic when they are looking very fragile.
Although results and performances in November have been concerning there have also been some mitigating circumstances with players being unavailable.
Third in the Premiership is where Aberdeen should be on the strength of the squad, but they should still be looking to put pressure on the teams above them, particularly with Celtic struggling right now.
That should be a target to put pressure on the Hoops and get closer to them.
The Dons need to respond strongly in the Premiership. This month they face St Mirren, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Livingston away from home with Ross County and St Johnstone visiting Pittodrie, and although not easy, they are all winnable games.
Trio’s return is boost for Derek McInnes
The return of Lewis Ferguson, Connor McLennan and Ross McCrorie from self-isolation will be warmly welcomed by Aberdeen.
The midfield trio have missed the defeat to Rangers at Ibrox, the draw with Hamilton and defeat to St Mirren.
Ferguson and McLennan were also required to quarantine having been identified as close contacts.
All being well all three could be back for Aberdeen’s Premiership trip to St Mirren this weekend.
Having them back available would be a major boost for Derek McInnes.
There’s no doubt the Dons have missed all three players in the last three games.
It’s often when players are unavailable that you realise how important they are to the team.
The partnership of Ferguson and McCrorie in central midfield has been particularly impressive for the Reds this season.
Being without both of them has seen Aberdeen struggle, with the influence of Ferguson – who is always one of the first names on McInnes’ teamsheet – noticeably absent.
Aberdeen haven’t functioned in the same way without him which tells it’s own story.
McLennan is another very good option for Aberdeen and provides plenty of pace and trickery in the wide areas, although he hasn’t been a regular this term in the same way as Ferguson and McCrorie.
The return of these three players will help the Dons as they look to recover from a poor run of form.