For those that decry the presence of Premiership Under 20’s sides in the Irn-Bru Cup this entertaining and highly competitive encounter at Glebe Park yesterday would have offered some food for thought. Men against boys? Well, yes and no.
The Aberdeen youngsters gave as good as they got against the battle-hardened senior pros of Inverness Caley Thistle and if they were let down by their decision making at crucial points in the game they more than made up for it with a spirited enthusiasm and some impressive attacking play.
Inverness were clinical enough to see them off but they knew they were in a game alright. They may have thought that with a three-goal advantage at half-time that it was going to end up being a stroll but the young lads from Pittodrie came back at them tenaciously after the break and it all got a bit feisty at times with both sides ending up with ten men.
In the end Caley were happy enough to advance to the next round and chalk up their second win in eight days at this venue having secured their first win here in their so far sticky start to their Championship campaign.
“When you’re drawn against a colts team you’re on a hiding to nothing,” asserted Inverness manager John Robertson. “We’re happy to get through – there was a lot of good things from us but some slackness as well. I think though Aberdeen will have got a lot more out of today than we have.”
One thing that the Dons youngsters, coached by former Caley legend Paul Sheerin, didn’t need as they set out on a decidedly uphill climb was to concede early. Alas for them this was precisely what unfolded with Brad McKay drifting a long ball forward which highlighted a lack of communication at the heart of their rearguard and Riccardo Calder moved quickest into no-man’s land to guide a header beyond Archie Mair for a soft opening goal.
The response from the hosts for the day was a decent one with the impressive Bruce Anderson drawing a couple of outstanding saves from Caley goalkeeper Mark Ridgers. This spirited defiance met with a harsh rebuff from Inverness however as they extended their lead through John Baird. Then as the interval approached another bit of defensive naivety saw Caley take a short corner and David Raven had too much time and space to fire in number three past Mair.
Still the young Dons refused to buckle and just after the break Seb Ross was rewarded for sheer persistence as he chased down a slack back pass and Ridgers’ hasty clearance attempt took a ricochet off him to land in the net.
It proceeded to be an evenly balanced second half and Caley were grateful to Carl Tremarco for popping up to slot home number four from a George Oakley cross.
It had been a game that always had an edge to it and it blew up in the closing minutes as Frank Ross went in late on Charlie Trafford which drew an angry reaction from the Caley player. It was a straight red for Ross, while Trafford, who was already on a yellow, got another to collect a red as well. Even then the spark from the Aberdeen youngsters wasn’t extinguished with Anderson deservedly finding the net right at the end to give the scoreline respectability.
“There’s no getting away from what my players will learn from that today,” reflected Sheerin. “The fine lines and the poor decisions they made at times meant they got punished a lot more than they do at our level.”