THERE was a sinking feeling around Pittodrie yesterday. There certainly wasn’t a singing feeling – despite the introduction of a choral section in the Richard Donald Stand.
The failure of Derek McInnes’s men to score in a home game for the first time since August would have left the inhabitants of the area able only to strike up a lament for a title challenge that Aberdeen sustained longer than was thought possible.
Celtic extending their lead at the top of the Premiership table to eight points courtesy of their win in Paisley the previous evening seemed to suck the life out of the home side’s encounter with Partick, even before a ball had been kicked. As a result, barely a peep was heard from the 1,000 or so populating the singing section. Maybe it should be renamed a sing-when-winning zone.
Ultimately, the team that cursed the outcome most was probably Alan Archibald’s side. Despite boasting three wins and a draw from their past five outings, they resolutely refuse to be pulled towards the drop zone.
A mundane contest boiled down to three one-on-ones.
Eight minutes from time, Jonny Hayes was adjudged to have fouled Frederic Frans in a challenge that resulted in the Irishman darting through on goal, only for a late whistle from referee Kevin Clancy to bring howls of derision from the home faithful and the home players.
Late in the first period, Lyle Taylor twice raced unaccompanied into the Aberdeen box. The first came barely seconds after he had arrived as a 32nd minute replacement for Kris Doolan, forced off with a damaged hamstring.
Homing in on Jamie Langfield, he dithered to allow the Aberdeen keeper to block at his feet. Shortly afterwards, the same scenario presented itself once more. Taylor made an almighty mess of this, being way too smart with an attempt chip that drifted wide of an open goal. His manager put it down to long flights that followed his international debut for Montserrat, the forward scoring in a World Cup qualifying defeat by Curacao before playing in the return days later.
“It’s unlike Lyle, he’s usually clinical one on one but he was just on the park,” said Archibald, who said his team “wouldn’t be far away” if they replicated yesterday’s defensive stability in their Wednesday trip to Celtic Park. “Lyle’s apologised to the lads, he’s disappointed, but he’ll get more chances and score goals for us.
“He was just off a flight from the Caribbean from international duty, to be fair. He got in on Thursday afternoon but he had a bit of jet lag, he’d been all over the place.”
McInnes’s team selection was far from the usual lines and perhaps reflected his belief that a new impetus was required by his team as confirming second place becomes the focus. Following the 1-1 draw at Dundee prior to the international break that seriously dented hopes of sustaining a title challenge, the Aberdeen manager produced surprises in several forward areas. The biggest by far was a first senior start for Lawrence Shankland.
Long tipped for such an elevation thanks to his freescoring exploits with the under-20s, Shankland’s profile had been given a boost by his double in 2-1 friendly victory for Scotland Under-21s nine days ago. The 19-year-old missed the chance to follow up his instant impression on the international scene – his first cap coming from the bench as had his previous dozen league appearances for his club – by spurning a couple of opportunities early on.
From the sort of central position in the box where he has proved lethal in the youth ranks, the Queen’s Park product screwed a low effort wide, before failing to direct a header on target after an inviting Ryan Jack ball in found him off balance. Withdrawn for the unexpectedly-omitted Niall McGinn early in the second period, Shankland acquitted himself well with his awareness and link-up play.
A lack of tempo that resulted in the confrontation quickly becoming a ponderous affair did not initially raise fears over the home side’s ability to break down their opponents.
McInnes’ men were in control as Partick seemed content to sit in as they sought to build on posting two consecutive victories in the top flight for the first time since 1996. It was a control that waned, just as have fanciful dreams of an extraordinary finish to the campaign.
Aberdeen: Langfield; Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine; McLean (Smith 81), Flood (Pawlett 55), Jack, Hayes; Shankland (McGinn 55), Rooney. Subs not used: Brown, Robson, Goodwillie, Daniels.
Partick Thistle: Fox; O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth; Craigen, Bannigan, Osman, Lawless (Higginbotham 77); Stevenson; Doolan (Taylor 31). Subs not used: Gallacher, Richards-Everton, Higginbotham, Fraser, Wilson, Keenan.
Referee: K Clancy. Attendance: 12,727.
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