Mystery of Graeme Shinnie’s omission by Scotland’s Alex McLeish

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Watching Scotland manager Alex McLeish couldn’t help but be impressed with Graeme
Shinnie’s contribution to a win that left everyone else at Pittodrie wondering why the former Aberdeen captain could leave the current one out of the squad to face Costa Rica and Hungary.

Team-mates Kenny McLean, Ryan Christie and Scott McKenna all received call-ups for the first matches since the Dons legend was reinstated in the job but the driving force in Derek McInnes’ side is left to put his feet up for a few days.

Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie scored the only goal of the game against Dundee. Picture: SNS Group

Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie scored the only goal of the game against Dundee. Picture: SNS Group

That might not be a bad thing as far as Aberdeen are concerned, as the last few weeks have simply underlined just how important the versatile midfielder is to their ambitions to win the Scottish Cup and finish runners-up to Celtic for a fourth successive season.

After all, his winning goal against struggling Dundee and the one in the first cup tie against Kilmarnock remain the only two his team have scored from open play in their last six matches.

Despite that they reflected their skipper’s grit, determination and ability by winning the replay at Rugby Park on penalties to progress to the Scottish Cup semi-final before reeling in Rangers on a day when they had to overcome the Dark Blues and the elements.

They are now only two points behind the Ibrox side with a game in hand after a run of only one point from their three previous Premiership matches, which included defeats by Hibernian and Celtic.

Those two setbacks came when Shinnie, pictured, was serving his second suspension of the season and it is surely no coincidence that they suffered their only loss in the league to a team currently in the bottom half of the table when he was banned for the first time last November.

That was at home to Motherwell and Stephen Robinson and his players won’t be unhappy to know a second yellow card in the Scottish Cup at Rugby Park last midweek rules him out of next month’s semi-final against them at Hampden.

Not that Shinnie will allow that to be a distraction, with league games at home to 
St Johnstone followed by trips to Fir Park and Tynecastle before the split. He said: “We are at Aberdeen for a reason and it is important that we handle pressure. It was a good week. It was a good night at Kilmarnock and we wanted to replicate that by getting back to winning ways in the league. With results going the other way, it was important to pick up three points.

“We’re focused on what we want to do and our frustration was with not picking up points. Obviously after losing the Hibs and Celtic games, getting back to winning ways was important for us.”

Shinnie’s fourth goal of the season made sure they did, although it owed a great deal to a blunder by Dundee goalkeeper Elliot Parish who spilled Christie’s cross, allowing the midfielder to hook the ball home. A-Jay Leitch-Smith shared responsibility with Parish for the defeat, though, as he was psyched out by Freddie Woodman when one-on-one with the Aberdeen goalkeeper shortly before the decisive moment in 36 minutes.

At least Dundee played with more passion than the previous week when they were thumped at home by St Johnstone but they now face Hearts at home followed by Celtic and Rangers away before the split.

The poor form of Ross County
and Partick Thistle below them at least offers some hope of survival, as will the fact that they have beaten Hearts and Rangers earlier this season. Just don’t expect their fate to be decided too soon.