Aberdeen slip up but Derek McInnes sure they will finish second
Late goals from Danny Swanson and substitute Craig Thomson saw Aberdeen beaten 2-0 by St Johnstone at Pittodrie, but McInnes is not worried it could trigger an end-of-season slide which may cost them a top-two finish.
He said: “If we’d been told at the start of the season we’d have four games to go, be nine points clear [in second] and with a vastly superior goal difference, we’d have taken it.
“We’re in a strong position but we don’t normally go through periods where we don’t win enough games. We’re more than capable of winning games in the run-in and I’m confident we’ll go and do that.
“We’re just trying to look after ourselves.
“We hoped to win the game and knew the consequences of that, but we didn’t mention the fact we could have sealed second. I think the scoreline was a bit harsh on us.”
The first 80 minutes at Pittodrie were pretty woeful. The hosts had the best chance of the first half just before the break, Jonny Hayes swinging over a cross which Kenny McLean couldn’t direct on target.
McLean was presented with another opening a minute after half-time but, with a crowded area to negotiate, he rushed his shot and fired wide.
St Johnstone’s opener came in controversial circumstances. Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis parried a Swanson shot and Ryan Jack took a touch before the Dons goalkeeper gathered the ball. Referee Alan Muir ruled it was a back pass from Jack and, from the resulting indirect free-kick, Liam Craig set up Swanson to score.
“I don’t think it was a blatant pass back,” argued McInnes afterwards.
Swanson, who has signed a pre-contract agreement with Championship winners Hibernian, turned provider a few minutes later to seal the victory. He played in substitute Thomson, who lashed a shot across the exposed Lewis and into the net.
Saints manager Tommy Wright was thrilled to see his side take the points and feels that finishing in the top four would be a remarkable achievement.
They are now six points ahead of fifth-placed Hearts, and Wright said: “I said this a few weeks ago, but we can’t relax. If we can split the big four by finishing fourth it would be another incredible season for us. Obviously the prize is Europe as well.
“Our aim is to go to Celtic next week and hopefully grind out another result, to get it done as quickly as possible. We’ve got three points more than people thought we would have at this stage, so we’ve started well after the split.”
But Saints are likely to be without midfielder Chris Millar when they visit Celtic Park, with the midfielder having been substituted in the first half of Saturday’s victory. Wright said: “It’s a groin injury but we won’t know how serious it is until Monday.”