The Dons lost more ground on Celtic at the summit of the Premiership with a one all draw with Motherwell at Pittodrie last Saturday.
It was the fourth successive match without a win for Derek McInnes’ outfit who started the league campaign with eight straight victories. Extrapolating their 2.083 points per game average throughout the entire season would equate to them finishing with 79 points – which has been enough to win the title once before (2012/13), the lowest ever for a 12 team top flight in recent memory.
Celtic have won 10 of the 15 iterations of the recent league format and average 91 points in the process. These facts illustrate that there is little – if any – room for error to win the Scottish Premiership. To get anywhere near that point tally from a possible 114 means losing five – at most six games – from the 38. In the opening third, the team hailing from the Grey City lost three times. For a time, there was a semblance of a “title race.” Just after the international break, the Hoops were welcomed up north in the early kickoff for TV. It was all going relatively well for Ronny Deila. Andrew Considine conceded a penalty, which Leigh Griffiths dispatched. After half-time, his side was pegged back with Adam Rooney also slotting home his 12-yard conversion just before the hour mark. Then the real test of Aberdeen’s resolve showed. Johnny Hayes was sent off but continued to stay competitive and scored through Paul Quinn with less than five minutes left. It was a sign the champions could be toppled. McInnes’ men had the ability and depth to do so if they kept the head. Which they did in the next couple of matches. One was an edgy midweek affair against Hamilton then there was the first half mauling of consensus third picks Hearts.
Although for as much as their heads were in the right place, their arses collapsed up in Inverness. The Reds had conceded just three times in eight games but leaked another two in the opening half an hour meaning they succumbed to their first league defeat of the season. It went from bad to worse, the Granite defence crumbled when St. Johnstone came to visit and dispatched them five-one with consummate ease. It was apparent that the defensive lapses were shocking – some of which is unacceptable at Sunday league level nevermind the best of the best in this country. Another international break followed and it was thought it was a chance to get their house back in order. They did not with defeat in Dingwall and it could have been worse than two-nil if Liam Boyce took even half of his chances.
If any thoughts of a title tilt still hung in the ether, they once again dropped points at home to a struggling Motherwell side, making it just one point from a possible 12. Celtic moved four points ahead leading into the match at Parkhead this weekend, if that stretched to seven then even the most passionate Don would admit second and an improvement on the 75 points accumulated last season would be all they could hope for.
Pound for pound this Aberdeen side should have been good enough to keep it competitive until at least the split, it is the best team outside of the Old Firm since George Burley’s Jam Tarts back in 2005. Everything went their way to help out their campaign. You factor in the lack of European football after their early exit from Europa League qualifying. Also, the defeat in their first match of the League Cup against Hibernian meant not more cup games till January.
To be convincing enough to have Celtic fearing for their status as Scotland’s best team. Aberdeen would have needed to go unbeaten in the dozen games then defeat the Bhoys on their own patch. They were capable of beating Caley Thistle and the Well while drawing against the Saints and the Stags. That would have made it 35 from 13, a six-point gap with Deila’s side only able to pick up a half-dozen in direct opposition to McInnes’ outfit. If you do not think these chain of events were possible then you never believed a team outside of Glasgow could have topped the table come May for the first time in three decades. Which shows why the Bhoys in Green have such a chokehold on the top tier that they have got us all thinking that even when they are letting their high standards slip that they will still win the Premiership by a double digit figure.
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