As usual after a string of poor results, another Aberdeen FC player appear before the media telling us “we’ve let the fans down, and we’ve let the manager down. We’re really fired up now” Who knows how many times we’ve heard that this season? But this time, their efforts (won’t say or lack of, as I don’t think that’s been an issue this season) had resulted in Craig Brown deciding to call time on his career. Maybe they’d realised what they’d done, although a lot of our poor form can be laid at Craig Brown’s door with his bizarre tactics and negative football.
So, a trip to Celtic Park was where we’d be fired up for. A place where we’ve not won in the league for almost 10 years, with just the cup replay win courtesy of a Darren Mackie goal to show for all our trips there. That said, we’ve been reasonably competitive there, despite running up defeat after defeat (let’s ignore Mark McGhee’s games there as our manager.) We’d seen off the days where a goal conceded to Celtic would lead to an avalanche of them. But, when we conceded a goal after 12 seconds, who didn’t expect the worst?
But, despite the eventual outcome being a crushing disappointment – it must mean something that we are back to being disappointed and not resigned to coming away from Celtic Park with a defeat – there are plenty of positives to take from it. First of all must be that we competed with Celtic, and showed some character after such an awful start. As the first half progressed, we coped with Celtic and kept ourselves in the game. When you keep it at 1-0, then you’re in with a shout.
The goal of the stroke of half time was huge for us. Int the context of the game it was a vital goal, but in the context of Scott Vernon’s season, it might set him off on a run and restore his confidence in front of goal. Vernon as had a terrible season, and suffered greatly from the decision to play him as part of a 5-man midfield. The better move would have been to sit him on the bench, and give him a break for a while before partnering him with Niall McGinn again.
Also, we got ourselves into a position to win the game. 3-1 up, no matter where you are playing, you should be able to kill the game off. Hooking Jonny Hayes might have been a good move on paper, replacing him with the quick and fresh Pawlett, but it broke up our flow. Still, we’d got ourselves there by taking the game to Celtic. Who knows where we’d be if we’d taken the game more often to our opponents?
The real revelation was the play of Josh Magennis. In a piece I’d written at the weekend (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/brown-out-at-aberdeen/) I’d given him some grief, and wondered why we’d retained him at all. But he brought his “A-game” to Celtic Park, and was tremendous. Two goals and an assist was as good a performance we’ve seen from any Aberdeen player his season. Magennis may have suffered from being played in too many positions. As a right back, he does what he can, but isn’t a defender. But maybe he’s showing he’s a more than capable as a forward at last. His direct running, pace and strength make him a good target man in theory. If he could add consistent finishing, he’d be a dangerous player. On balance, given his relative youth and skill set, it would worth giving him another contract – maybe a two-year one.
After the disappointment of defeat has diminished, maybe there is some optimism for the rest of the season. Hearts and United are as inconsistent as any, and they are there for the taking – if we can demonstrate the willingness we showed to get forward we did at Celtic Park. If we do, I’d not rule out a top half finish yet.