It’s back to business for Aberdeen this weekend as they look to recover from a surprise defeat to basement battlers Hearts. Having taken the lead through Niall McGinn, the men in red looked on course to continue their impressive run of form. But a combination of wasteful finishing, questionable defending and dubious refereeing (to say the least) decisions meant the points went to the capital as the Jambos prevailed by three goals to one.
The Dons’ bid to get back on track will be dented with Willo Flood and Barry Robson missing due to injury and suspension respectively. The experienced pair’s absence could prove costly at any time but it may well be pivotal on Saturday as Derek McInnes will take his team to Glasgow’s east end to face the stiff test of Celtic.
McInnes could well call on fringe figures such as Gregg Wylde, Nicky Low and Cammy Smith to fill the midfield berths vacated by the former Celtic men, and their gaffer will be confident the current crop will cope considerably better than Aberdeen teams of the past.
The memories of regular drubbings at the hands of the Hoops will reluctantly be recalled amongst long-suffering Dandies on their journey south. None more so than the capitulation that all but spelled the end of Mark McGhee’s disastrous reign in the Pittodrie hot seat, as Neil Lennon’s team ran out 9-0 winners more than three years ago. That alone would be enough to send shivers down the spines of even the most fervent Dons fans – but they had become somewhat immune. Such was the regularity of heavy Parkhead defeats, narrow reverses were viewed as some sort of triumph.
But things should be different this time around.
Gone are the days when the Aberdeen manager will predict a heavy defeat to the Glasgow team, something Ebbe Skovdahl can lay claim to. To be fair to the eccentric Dane he was right as his charges suffered a 5-0 defeat in his first competitive game in charge. Fast forward 14 years and five managers later, Derek McInnes will face the challenge with a confidence that will not allow him to envisage anything less than a positive outcome.
The prospect of an away win will surely be boosted further by fresh limbs with minimum disruption to the Pittodrie playing staff during the international break. Celtic though, will no doubt be managing their troops carefully as they look ahead to a crucial Champions League tie with AC Milan whilst hoping that a number of key men will prove their fitness ahead of Aberdeen’s visit.
Three years and 15 days ago I sat, numb, as Glasgow’s November rain lashed down, watching on in horror as my team was ripped to shreds. As Gary Hooper headed a sixth, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I haven’t been back to the scene of the crime since and a win for Aberdeen on Saturday won’t heal the scar – but at least it would have me, and fellow Dons, reminiscing of happier times.