TODAY was a massive test for an Aberdeen side under pressure following an indifferent start to the season.
Out of the Europa League in the third qualifying round, the same stage as the last two seasons, and just one win in the first five League games, the Dons faced a tricky test against a Dundee side always difficult to beat and draw specialists in Scotland’s top flight.
With the game heading towards another share of the spoils, where Kevin Holt gave the hosts the lead only for that to be wiped out very swiftly by James Maddison, Derek McInnes made the bold move of taking off Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn in favour of Jayden Stockley and Wes Burns.
Like a flutter at Euro Palace online casino, the gamble paid off within minutes as Stockley rose high above the Dundee defence to power home a header from a brilliant cross from Johnny Hayes to put the Dons into a 2-1 lead.
Then, three minutes from time, a positive run from Burns saw him upended for a penalty, which was converted by Kenny McLean to seal the three points for the Dons.
With Hearts and Rangers both dropping points yesterday, it was critical, even this early I to the season, that Aberdeen picked up the three points this afternoon ahead of a big week where they entertain St Johnstone in the League Cup and Mark Warburton’s men next Sunday.
Whilst it was a good result, and not too many teams will pick up three points against Paul Hartley’s men this season, there are big decisions ahead for Derek McInnes to make ahead of these massive matches that could shape their season.
The form of Adam Rooney is concerning, he’s a player who is struggling for goals just now and has been off form since missing that crucial penalty in Maribor that, ultimately, cost Aberdeen progression to the Europa League Playoff round. On watching him today, he was rarely involved and was caught offside far too often. Stockley looked eager when he came on, as emphasised with his goal, and there’s also Miles Storey, who impressed at Inverness last season so there are options to consider and a spell out the team may do Rooney some good.
Defence is still a worry. Ash Taylor is a mistake waiting to happen and O’Connor looks too relaxed in possession, which could’ve seen lapses punished today. The Dons can’t afford to trust that centre back pairing against better sides this week. Mark Reynolds being back from suspension should help but needs his partner, whichever of the two it may be, to concentrate on defending and not make costly mistakes.
The Dons are also missing skipper Ryan Jack, who has started the season well. Graeme Shinnie has stepped into midfield and done well but he’s much better as a left back but has had to fill in because of Jack’s injury and the shocking performances of McLean, who was almost anonymous before his penalty contribution. Long term, Aberdeen need a combination in the centre of midfield that works well if they are to retain second again at least and make an impact in the cup competitions.
Further afield, the return of Hayes has been timely and he looked in the mood today whilst the performance of loanee James Maddison was excellent. The Norwich midfielder adds guile to the midfield and is perfectly suited to the No.10 role off the striker. McInnes will be hoping he can persuade Cannaries gaffer Alex Neil to keep him beyond January when his loan period is up.
Today’s win should give Aberdeen a boost ahead of a massive two games that could shape their season.
St Johnstone have been a bogey team for the club over the last couple of years, stretching back to the Scottish Cup Semi Final of 2014, and the Dons will need to show their mettle if they are to reach the League Cup Semi Finals.
Win that and they really will be confident ahead of the visit from a Rangers side who have looked very ordinary in their opening six League matches with troubles off the pitch led by Joey Barton.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Dons should underestimate Rangers and it will be a tough examination against a side whose budget is at least three times higher than the men from Pittodrie.
Let’s face it, the Dons are likely to be playing for second place given the impact Brendan Rodgers is having at Celtic, who look much more powerful at Domestic level for anyone to give them any sort of challenge.
Victory over one of the main rivals would send a message that Aberdeen won’t lose a grip on that runners up spot likely.
Sort out the flaws that were evident even in victory today, and build on the result, and Aberdeen can have another good season, hopefully with silverware added again, like the jackpot that could be won at Euro Palace online casino’s football star online slot game.