THERE was a moment late in this game that summed up its shortcomings. A passback to Jamie Langfield bobbled just as he was about to clear it, which meant that he made only the slightest contact.
After the Aberdeen goalkeeper had turned to see the ball almost sneak inside his left-hand post, he was so furious that he took it out on the innocent upright, lashing out at it with his boot.
Langfield was frustrated – as we all were – with a poor pitch at Pittodrie, and an even poorer match, especially from Aberdeen’s point of view. Having allowed their opponents the best chances of a scrap that gradually improved to the point where it could be described as mediocre, they are still without a win this year.
Their home form is particularly disturbing. They have enjoyed only three league wins at Pittodrie all season. Only Dundee have scored fewer goals on their own turf.
Craig Brown, the Aberdeen manager whose position is under growing scrutiny, said: “Aberdeen were the better team. Even when we were down to ten men, we took the game to St Mirren.
“But the old failing of finding the net was apparent. That’s happening too often at home.”
In truth, they created very little here, save for a couple of long-range efforts by Jonny Hayes, although they were entitled to feel a sense of injustice about the dismissal of Mark Reynolds with 18 minutes left.
The defender’s arm appeared to be raised when it blocked a shot by Kenny McLean just outside the Aberdeen penalty box, but the ball was moving at such speed that the booking, Reynolds’ second of the match, seemed harsh in the extreme.
More than halfway through a season that was said to be producing the most entertaining and competitive football the SPL has seen in years, standards appear to have taken a turn for the worse.
As we acquaint ourselves once again with long, stupefying stretches in which neither team seems capable of stringing more than a couple of passes together, it is surely no coincidence that there has been a swift deterioration in quality of the playing surfaces.
The Pittodrie pitch had been in a bit of a state last Wednesday, when Scotland played Estonia on it, but it was even worse here, covered in sand and mud and pretty much anything other than grass. The result was a first half so bad that one spectator was spotted disappearing just before half-time, drawing a finger across his throat as he went.
Even St Mirren, proud of their reputation as a passing team, were reduced to lumping the ball long to Esmael Goncalves, their newfound hero from Portugal. Gary Teale’s sliced effort, high and wide of the target, was as good as it got for the visitors in that opening period, while Hayes’ low shot, easily saved by Craig Samson, was as much as Aberdeen could muster.
Paul Lawrie’s walk round the pitch with the Ryder Cup at half-time, a lap of honour conducted to the strains of Local Hero, was the first excuse for a sparse crowd to warm their hands. The second was four minutes after the restart when Hayes strode on to a half-cleared cross and struck a clean, right-foot shot that was beaten away by the goalkeeper.
That signalled an improvement in proceedings – it couldn’t have got any worse – that was confirmed by Gary Teale when he tried his luck from outside the box. His shot was powerful, but it was also straight and the right height for Jamie Langfield who spiralled upwards to push it over the bar.
There was more purpose about both teams now, which served to stretch the game. McLean looked set to be the main beneficiary when the ball fell to him in Aberdeen’s penalty area, but his shot was blocked by Langfield, and when the rebound offered him a second chance, he was denied by Peter Pawlett’s sliding intervention.
The home support were not happy, especially as the game stuttered into its final quarter. They were glad when Brown introduced Josh Magennis, a striker, but they booed when it transpired that he would be playing at left-back. There were ironic cheers when Scott Vernon came on to play up front. And the mood was enhanced none by
The red card gave new hope to St Mirren, who created the best opening of the match with six minutes left. Conor Newton slid the ball into the channel, where Paul McGowan cut it back across an empty box. Goncalves had only the goalkeeper to beat, but Langfield was out quickly to block.