Two teams that can’t seem to win, failed to win again pretty well sums up the grim spectacle served up at a rain swept Firhill yesterday. It is difficult to know which of yesterday’s teams that spells bigger trouble for.
Aberdeen, now without a victory in four games...or second-bottom Partick Thistle, who at least brought an end to a four-game losing streak with their point. A point, indeed, that is one of only three they have taken from the Pittodrie side in 13 league encounters stretching back four seasons.
Whatever his public demeanour, Derek McInnes ought to have grave concerns over the toothlessness of his side ahead of Tuesday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final replay on the artificial pitch of the country’s form team Kilmarnock. They appear in no great shape to condemn Stevie Clarke’s side to only a second defeat in 18 games. And, owing to the fact that Hibernian are only two points behind the Pittodrie men and play away to St Johnstone on Friday evening, this week could well see Aberdeen out of the cup and pushed down to fourth in the Premiership.
Understandably, McInnes was in no mood to envelop himself in such negativity that is being reflected in increasingly audible grumbles from a support now accustomed to seeing their club in cup finals and occupying second in the league table.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” said McInnes, whose team are targeting a semi-final date with Motherwell in two days’ time. “It’s important we all stick together. As my experience shows in these types of runs, when you four games without a win, sometimes just working that bit harder, taking more responsibility for your performance can just turn the corner.
“Sometimes you can over-think it and it’s just down a bit of luck. I’m sure if we can get ourselves into a semi-final on Tuesday, it will no doubt help going into the next league game. As disappointed as we are today, I can still take positives from certain aspects of it. What’s clear for me is that there’s a real willingness from the players to overturn what’s been happening.”
On an afternoon in which Scotland manager Alex McLeish was in the stand to cast his eye over Aberdeen centre-back Scott McKenna, the youngster stood up well partnering Anthony O’Connor. Indeed, if few others did, the defences of both teams emerged with credit. O’Connor, meanwhile, conceded that McInnes’ men require to address a deficit when head to Rugby Park with their season on the line.
“As footballers you have got to handle pressure. We haven’t won a game in a while and people are probably writing us off,” he said. “We have had a couple of disappointing results: Hibs, Celtic and not picking up three points today. So people are probably doubting us a little bit at the minute. All the talk seems to be about Celtic and Rangers, especially with the Old Firm game coming up, and Hibs, with them putting some good wins together. But we just try and get on with our business quietly, keep racking up wins and see where it takes us. Trying to get to a final..,what more motivation do you need? Especially after the way we lost it last season, a last minute goal against Celtic in the final.”
Those heady days seem dim and distant. Aberdeen had control in the first period yesterday, but were devoid of penetration. The talking point - save from a Stevie May goalline clearance from a deflected Chris Erskine header and a couple of Freddie Woodman saves that all came in the second period - was an incident wherein Erskine crashed to the ground after tangling with last-man Ryan Christie 24 minutes in.
It looked like little more the a coming together and was deemed as such by referee Greg Aitken. However a fulminating Thistle support and Erskine - given the armband to mark his 250th appearance for the club - were in no doubts the official made the wrong call.
“I thought it was a foul,” said the Partick midfielder. “I have asked the ref afterwards why he didn’t give it and he said it was a coming together. Christie has played the ball short and then he grabs me as I’m running through. I don’t see how it can be a coming together if I’m running away from him. For me it is a stonewall foul and he has to give it. It is also a red card as well.” For Aberdeen, meanwhile, it seem like red alert.