Oran Kearney recently brought in a magician to entertain the players before the draw against Celtic but he could do with a few on the pitch if it’s not to be a “now-you-see-’em-now-you-don’t” appearance in the Premiership.
Not that he’s the first St Mirren manager to suffer at Pittodrie in 2018 as teams put out by Jack Ross and Alan Stubbs also conceded four goals at the venue, but this result must be considered the worst of the three.
After all, Aberdeen effectively had half of their first team missing with Niall McGinn, Stevie May, Scott Wright and James Wilson out injured while Scott McKenna served the first of a two-game ban impossed in midweek for his reckless challenge on Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard.
But the visitors never looked capable of taking advantage. In fact the match surely turned out more positively than even Derek McInnes must have thought possible as Connor McLennan celebrated his 19th birthday 24 hours late with a first goal for the club, already as many in the league as May has scored this year.
It was a bitter-sweet occasion for the teenager, though, as he was forced off early in the second half to join that long injury list after the sort of accidental collision that also ended Adam Hammill’s St Mirren debut before the break.
Both suffered shoulder injuries, with Hammill’s seeming more serious. That hardly helped Kearney’s mood afterwards as he contemplated being without the former Liverpool winger he brought in earlier this week to add experience and a threat going forward.
The Northern Irishman admits he has bigger problems though. “In the four games I have been here the home games have been of a good standard but the away games haven’t,” said Kearney.
“That is the alarming thing at this moment for me. Yes the home team have a slight advantage but it is still a pitch, with two teams and we should be competing.”
Pluses easily outweighed the minuses for McInnes, though, as Sam Cosgrove’s double were his first competitive goals for Aberdeen, while Max Lowe completed a day of firsts by scoring for the first time since arriving on loan from Derby County.
By contrast, Simeon Jackson became the first St Mirren player to score in 714 minutes as their only other one since the opening-day victory against Dundee was an own goal at Tynecastle, but 77 minutes in it was too-little-too-late.
It was also down to Aberdeen’s slackness as substitute Stephen Gleeson took pity on their dismal opponents by gifting them possession and Jackson lifted the ball over Joe Lewis, who had been responsible for their best chance to that point.
The goalkeeper’s excuse could have been a loss of concentration given his inactivity in the previous 50 minutes when he hit a clearance against Jackson and had to scramble back to scoop the ball off the line.
The only surprise was that Aberdeen were only three ahead by the interval such was a dominance that only intensified when Cosgrove broke his Dons duck with a cute near-post glancing header from a delicious Shay Logan cross in 26 minutes.
Five minutes later McLennan swept a shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area despite the fact the youngster was falling back as he connected with the ball.
The visitors were simply falling apart by then as was clear when Derby County’s left-back Lowe was left in splendid isolation on the penalty spot to score when a Gary Mackay-Steven shot was deflected into the Englishman’s path.
Cosgrove completed the scoring in 65 minutes with a shot from a Lowe cross that Craig Samson really should have kept out but even the fact Aberdeen’s intensity dropped after that couldn’t spoil their manager’s afternoon.
“I was delighted, especially considering all the problems we’ve had this week” said McInnes. “I’ve not been able to play the same team twice in a row this season.
“I’ve not been able to get a back four and that kind of familiarity is important to any team so the youngsters have had to play a part and long term that is such a good thing for us. That gives me confidence in the squad, that I can be more dependent in the youngsters.”
True, but it would be surprising if Wilson, Wright, May and McGinn, who has been withdrawn from the Northern Ireland squad, don’t return for the trip to Tynecastle after the international break.