ABERDEEN’S bubble didn’t so much burst as explode spectacularly with their biggest home defeat since a 5-1 thrashing from Sigma Olomouc signalled the start of Mark McGhee’s disastrous spell in charge of the club.
There’s no suggestion those dark days will be returning any time soon but losing a third successive domestic match for the first time under their current manager will have Celtic fans and Ronny Deila saying “I told you so”.
Especially if the champions take full advantage of this unexpected thrashing by winning at Hamilton today while Derek McInnes has just under a fortnight to get his side’s season back on track.
They now face a trip to Dingwall on Friday week and a visit from Motherwell before going to Celtic Park at the end of the month and the Aberdeen manager insists his players must toughen up significantly during the international break to stop their recent slide.
“The team that were street wise and strong won the game,” said a stunned McInnes, inset. “It was a shock how we didn’t deal with it more than embarrassment, but we expect more of ourselves and the supporters expect more of the team.
“There are certain aspects of our game that we clearly have to improve on because if I’m Jim McIntyre (Ross County manager) looking at that game then I’m telling my players to get the ball in the box and ask questions of them and be physical.
“We expect more of ourselves, and that is all of us so we will do the work to make sure we don’t have more bad days like today.”
If McInnes thought that recovering from two successive defeats was a test of his players’ character, then it was nothing to the stern examination they faced after finding themselves two goals down in just ten minutes.
From two rare goalscorers at that as Brian Easton claimed only the fourth of his entire career with a stunning 25-yard volley, while Joe Shaughnessy, hardly renowned for his goalscoring abilities in his years at Pittodrie, prodded in from close range.
Aberdeen’s riposte to the latter’s effort was instant and owed a lot to the nervous start Zander Clark made in the absence of Alan Mannus, red-carded in the previous weekend’s home win against Dundee United.
Clark looked shaky and indecisive when conceding a needless corner in 12 minutes and there was an air of inevitability when Niall McGinn’s corner was headed powerfully past Clark by Ash Taylor from the resulting set piece.
It was a breathless start and the pace barely slackened from then on as Aberdeen stretched their opponents with the variety of their movement and pace in the wide areas.
It needed the cool head of Dave MacKay in central defence to keep things organised sufficiently to avoid further damage before the break while Saints own potency on the counterattack put the home side back to square one.
A wonderfully flowing breakout eventually saw Graham Cummins pick out Steven McLean with a back post cross and only a stunning Danny Ward save prevented Liam Craig from fully exploiting the striker’s astute header across goal.
Not that the former Hibs midfielder had long to wait for a goal as the Dons defence once again failed to deal with the resulting corner and Craig clipped the loose ball home with the aid of a deflection.
The expectation was for Aberdeen to come out for the second half with all guns blazing but it was St Johnstone who produced the fireworks.
Just two minutes after the restart McLean glanced in an exquisite near post header from Simon Lappin’s corner then for good measure the former Aberdeen striker headed in at the far post from another well flighted Cummins cross.
The winning margin could have been even more emphatic as Jonny Hayes got away with a blatant push on Cummins in the box while McLean nearly completed a second hat-trick of the season near the end.
Not that he was too disappointed as the former Rangers and Aberdeen player said: “That was probably a better result than the one at Ibrox as it was against the top of the league team in the Premiership.”