ABERDEEN will be ambivalent about their ambivalence after a rollicking encounter in which referee Willie Collum, almost inevitably, proved a major player.
Angst over their failure to bag the win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle that would have taken them top of the table had to be set against the fact that the Pittodrie men looked set for a sobering defeat in trailing by two into the final 20 minutes.
Niall McGinn began the spirited, point-snatching comeback with a fine finish in the 73rd minute. However, it was an Adam Rooney penalty awarded a minute from time that allowed the home side to draw level, and draw succour, from a day wherein they passed up the chance to apply real pressure on Celtic. Ahead of facing Hearts at Tynecastle today, Ronny Deila’s men remain above Aberdeen on goal difference, having played two games fewer.
Not many inside a rain-soaked Pittodrie seemed to see as did Collum when a shot from David Goodwillie hit Danny Devine. The incident led the Euro 2016-bound referee to point to the spot for the second time in the encounter, the first occasion coming seconds after the restart when he adjudged that Aberdeen’s Paul Quinn had pushed Ross Draper in the area.
Collum was jeered by the home support relentlessly even before that. He is now the Scottish official it is de rigeur to be dastardly both to and about. By Jiminy, he does not help himself, though. Both at the end of the first half and second half, which ran to more than 51 minutes, he blew his whistle when Aberdeen were about to take corners.
I will reserve judgment because I think Willie is up there with the best of them and I’m not just patronising him saying that.John Hughes
On the penalties that he gave one week after awarding two in error in Falkirk’s defeat of Rangers, there was no real uniformity, it should be said. McInnes muddied the waters by claiming that, having watched a run-through of the encounter, the strongest case for a spot-kick was overlooked. “From the last kick of the ball when [Carl] Tremarco clearly handballed it to stop the ball going to Rooney, that was the clearest penalty of the lot and we should win the game on that,” he said.
Yet, the fact is that for the crucial given penalty as Aberdeen pushed for an equaliser, no Aberdeen players claimed when the ball travelled towards Devine.
McInnes was a little woolly about what he witnessed watching again. “At the time I wasn’t sure about our penalty. Inverness defended so deep and got a lot of blocks on the ball. When they come out with arms up, they run the risk of that kind of decision. Devine’s arm is definitely up but whether it struck it or not, it’s not clear. Our pressure and play deserved to get the equaliser.”
His Highland counterpart John Hughes was in magnanimous mood over much – he praised Aberdeen’s character while bemoaning his team’s second-half deep withdrawal – including the victory-costing penalty. “Danny is adamant the ball hit him in the midriff,” he said. “I will reserve judgment because I think Willie is up there with the best of them and I’m not just patronising him saying that. So I hope he got the call right because it would be a hard one to take if it wasn’t.”
McInnes did not reserve his judgment on the penalty that was converted in emphatic fashion by Greg Tansey in the 47th minute to appear to put Inverness on their way to a sixth win at Pittodrie in seven seasons. “I don’t think Quinn does anything wrong,” the Aberdeen manager said. “He didn’t make any movement towards their player. Draper stuck his hip into him and goes over.”
Quinn certainly seemed to go wrong in being outmuscled by Draper along the byline in the lead-up to the 40th minute opener by the visitors. The cutback that followed was sidefooted past Danny Ward for a goal that Hughes’ side deserved for their smart counter-attacking and solidity in soaking up the pressure from a blunt-looking Aberdeen.
McGinn supplied the cutting edge when he jinked in off the left and steered past keeper Owain Fon Williams, by this point swathed in a bandage after sustaining a cut and a severe winding in an early clatter.
McInnes, who could rely on Rooney with the pressure penalty, dispatched with a resounding blooter, refused to see dropping two points as a winding of his team’s title ambitions. “I’m disappointed that we haven’t won a home game. But we’re still on an unbeaten run (over seven games) and it might prove to be an important point going forward.”