It might seem strange to be talking about fixtures in September as being potentially season-defining but that’s the sort of pressure Derek McInnes has created since taking over as Aberdeen manager, which certainly lends significance to a fixture like this.
During that time they have taken over from Rangers as Celtic’s main challengers for the title only to ultimately fall short because of results against the sort of opposition they faced at Pittodrie yesterday.
For example Inverness took more points off them than the champions last season and defeat in this latest meeting would have seen the bottom club in the division actually move above them in the admittedly still embryonic table.
Instead a stunning Iain Vigurs goal earned Caley Thistle the point that took them off the foot of the table leaving Aberdeen stuck in the bottom half after a run of just one win and six points from their first five games.
They now face a crucial run of matches with trips to Dundee and Kilmarnock and a first visit from bitter rivals Rangers in four years as well as a Betfred Cup tie at home to St Johnstone, all before the next international break, and a string of victories in those matches looks increasingly important.
No one is more aware of that than McInnes himself and while he is aware of the problem, don’t expect him to panic any time soon as he said: “We have dropped points in two home games, against Hearts and today, and that’s why we’ve had a slower start than normal.
“We have still to find our rhythm so we have to make sure we’re better next time out, especially at Pittodrie.We have lost one game but it is coming into a busy period, there’s a lot to look forward to – it’s not doom and gloom.”
There was a fair bit of gloom first half here though as it was a drab affair with very little in the way of incisive, controlled attacking football from either team, and for all their possession Aberdeen created little. They might argue that was down to the Highlanders’ aggressive approach which earned the visitors bookings for Greg Tansey, Josh Meekings and Billy King for a variety of offences.
That clearly annoyed Richie Foran as he marched on to the pitch at half time to confront referee Crawford Allan about some of his decisions but the young manager ended up discussing it in the official’s dressing room.
“Credit to the referee, he took me into his room at half-time for a chat so I have respect for him for that,” said Foran afterwards. “It would have been easy for him to push me away, some other refs might have done that but maybe he knew he’d made a mistake.”
His assistant Brian Rice had to make do with touchline discussions after Allan allowed play to continue after a challenge in midfield left Liam Polworth pole-axed while Aberdeen, on the break, netted the opening goal through McGinn.
Polworth had clipped the crossbar with a volley in a rare moment of anxiety for either goalkeeper during an insipid opening period during which the Dons suffered another significant injury setback.
Already without injured captain Ryan Jack for an extended period, the home side lost his replacement Graeme Shinnie with a foot injury after just 33 minutes. On the plus side that allowed James Maddison an early introduction. The teenager, signed on loan from Norwich City, showed a real talent for drifting into space, a lovely touch on the ball and four minutes from the end very nearly carved out a winner after exchanging passes with fellow substitute Peter Pawlett.
Owain Fon Williams produced a fine diving save to deny the midfielder and atone for being distracted by the presence of Adam Rooney when McGinn curled in a 30-yard effort that was more a cross than shot. There was nothing Joe Lewis could have done to prevent Vigurs levelling though as he curled a delicious shot from the edge of the area into the top corner of the net to give Inverness a point ahead of Celtic’s visit next Sunday.
Not that Foran was exactly satisfied as he said:“We created a lot of chances and I thought Aberdeen were there for the taking. We were magnificent at the back but attacking-wise that’s the poorest we’ve been in the final third.”
There’s just no pleasing some people some times.