23 July 2011

Match Recap: Aberdeen 0 - 0 St Johnstone

Much has been made of the early date that the SPL season got underway, and perhaps both sides were still trying to shake off a little rust from the summer. Overall the Dons were the stronger side even playing a man down for the final twenty-five minutes, and can hope to build on the effort going forward.

That said, the visitors from Perth could have completely changed the match in the early going when new signing Youl Mawene bungled Cillian Sheridan's cross before Gonzalez denied David Robertson's follow up attempt.

From that point on, however, the Dons shifted into gear, first with new captain Foster saw his curling free kick go just wide, and then just a few minutes later when Enckelman had to work to punch aside Foster's blast from the top of the box. The rest of the half so the Dons continue to push forward, and Aberdeen carried at least some of that momentum through the break as Fyvie first hit the post (on a cross the Finnish admittedly misjudged) and then send Mackie in on goal, but the chance was wasted as the strike drove the ball straight to Enckelman.

Aberdeen's push forward was slowed when Ryan Jack decided to make an early exit, drawing straight red for a foolish, two-legged challenge on Murray Davidson. Perhaps the red was harsh but I have no problem with the decision, a reckless challenge that COULD have caused serious injury has no place in the game.

We were introduced to Icelandic international Kari Arnason, taking over for Pawlett, just a few minutes later, and combined with the addition of Josh Magennis (for the quiet Vernon), the substitutes help the home side regain the forward direction. Magennis in particular had a couple strong runs into the danger area only to be let down by poor finishing. I thought Stevie Cowan had the right of it, saying "[when] Aberdeen get to the final third, they just don't seem to have the guile to work an opening", which we knew going in could be a challenge.

That said it was a solid showing for several question marks going in. Foster endured a fair amount of off-season criticism so a solid debut in the captaincy was huge for him. We have to hope that last year's leading scorer Vernon will move past whatever was plaguing him this afternoon, though Mackie's effort suggested his "100 goal" pledge may not be complete folly. If the Dons can bring this week's effort to St Mirren next Saturday they should collect the three points for a nice (early) start to the season.

Second prize is a set of steak knives

I never get tired of the SPL table before the season opener. No points have been dropped, no opportunities lost, and we can all dream of the drama and glory that is to come.

22 July 2011

Preview: Aberdeen - St Johnstone

UPDATE: Arnason confirmed in the squad, thanks @invernessreds.

It honestly does not feel quite like football season, and a certain Celtic manager would agree rather loudly, but the games are upon us and I will not complain. Joe Shaughnessy, Chris Clark, and Jamie Langfield are unavailable for the match, and the fitness of new signing Kari Arnason will be determined.

It is terribly trite, but we will learn quite a bit in tomorrow's match; for now we have a handful of question marks. How will new captain Foster handle the role, and the hopefully-augmented back line? Will Arnason be able to play in his natural midfield, or will fitness keep him in a more defensive role or on the bench? Who will step forward up front and provide the goals?

St Johnstone should be a tough test especially given the early start to the season, but it will feel good to have Pittodrie host a match once more.

19 July 2011

New Faces, Same Auld Tune

Each new season, I generally start with the same apology: I am unreasonably optimistic when it comes to football and specifically the Dons. I like the new players that we've acquired, those that left were crap, and with just a bit of health and luck - which really are the same thing, no? - each season I expect the Dons to spend the full season near the top of the table.

This year seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Back from injury, both Mackie and young Fraser Fyvie are in essence new faces, while Kari Arnason and Youl Mawene should augment the Dons defence, our main weakness from last season. Up front the club has many options, none of them supremely compelling, but here again optimism strikes in that I believe the pairing of Vernon and Mackie may yet prove potent, with Josh Magennis at least capable of a solid step forward.

Player health aside, Langfield's seizure over the summer threatened the Dons' stability at the back, but Jason Brown arrived from Rovers just in time for the opener against St Johnstone. The Welsh international should serve in good stead in the near-term, and in combination with David Gonzalez the keeper position should be solid even if Langfield's medical situation is not quickly resolved.

In light of last year's sparkling opener and subsequent season-long debacle perhaps we should be rooting for a more modest debut at Pittodrie tomorrow. Aberdeen are decidedly thin on the wings, and must hope that someone up front can find the creativity to put the ball in the net with regularity, but a strengthened back line and strong centre of the field should put the Dons squarely in the middle of things in most matches.

Prediction: 5th place. This would require at least two youngsters to take a strong step forward, and for the Dons to avoid the worst of the injury bug that so plagued the club least season. Honestly I would be unsurprised by either a 10th place (not a relegation spot just yet, thank you) or 3rd place if it turns out there is more pace out wide than was thought. Given that range, why am I picking 5th place? oh yes, that optimism.

01 January 2011

Match Summary: Aberdeen 1 - 1 Dundee United

A fortnight ago I would have been well-pleased to take a point from this match, or at least not terribly disappointed. The renewed expectations of the nascent Craig Brown era combined in the manner with which the points were allocated, however, keep Saturday's New Firm darby result from being anything other than the aforementioned disappointment.

Yes, Maguire's goal was an unmitigated gift, a first-rate lapse on the part of Keith Watson, although Maguire deserves credit for punishing the mistake. But the Dons were perhaps unlucky to have a penalty appeal denied, and several shots were wasted on side or top netting... on the bright side however, at least we are creating those chances?

Indeed, if not for Dixon having crocked [now confirmed, broken, and out for season] Yoann Folly with a reckless challenge, I could probably convince myself to take the point and move on... but the injury plus two stolen points? It will take a little longer. Hopefully the lads can recover more quickly, as the fixture pile-up next month is positively dreadful, and points will be at a premium.

In the SPL announcement yesterday, the Dons now face a congested schedule running thus: 22 Jan away Celtic, 29 Jan Celtic (League Cup), 1 Feb Celtic, 12 Feb away St Johnstone, 15 Feb Motherwell, 19 Feb Kilmarnock, 22 Feb Hamilton. Fortunately, nearly every other club faces a similar challenge, Cup ties aside, though it's a shame that the Dons now wait a full fortnight for the next League match, 15 January hosting St Mirren.

31 December 2010

Year's End, And Looking Ahead

The Pittodrie faithful will enter the new year with considerably more optimism about the club than would have been the case if the calendar were two weeks shorter. The new management team of Craig Brown and Archie Knox have guided the Dons to two critical wins and avoided starting 2011 in the drop zone, but are aware of the continued challenge ahead.

I'm not usually in favor of quoting from the pages, but RedWeb's summary of the papers this week seems particularly appropriate. All seem to have focussed on Zander Diamond, or perhaps were just too lazy to get independent quotes for themselves, but that said the 25-year-old midfielder has provided a few choice items that warrant the copy/paste:

With injury, it's been a hard couple of years. I was thrown into the deep end when I came back in January last season as we were struggling then, too... But, hopefully, everything injury-wise is forgotten and I hope the experience of the boss and Archie can add a couple of things to my game. [They] tell me to go out and enjoy my game and, when you are doing your job right, the confidence comes from that.

As I've argued, I believed throughout that this squad was not lacking on talent, just on execution and consistency... and confidence can go a long long road in this funny sport of fitba.

Diamond went on to summarize the pain, both Twitter- and pub-side-induced, of being a Dons fan recently:

"It's not great seeing your team bottom of the league. You watch Sky Sports and the other sports channels and see your team is bottom of the table. Your pals are annoying you and that's hard to take. But, hopefully, this is the start of something and we can keep winning games. The new management has come in and got the response they wanted - and we wanted too.

We've had a great number of fans following us in the past couple of games. We've sent them up the road happy with six points out of six, but that means nothing if we get beaten by Dundee United; we know these two wins don't end the talk of relegation, they're two great results on the road, but we've got a long road to go before we're out of this situation.

It's not good enough for us to turn up and say 'We're Aberdeen' and expect to roll teams over. We need to put in a lot of hard work and we've done that in the last two games. But we need to do that in every game and eventually we'll be out of the mire we're in.

Swing the fire and first-foot a good one, Happy Hogmanay & a guid New Year tae ane an aw.

29 December 2010

Match Summary: Hamilton 0 - 1 Aberdeen

I've always wished the best for the Accies, but sadly at this point the Dons absolutely needed those three points.

That said, all credit to new boss Craig Brown for having taken 6 from 6 to start his term. Scott Vernon was again at the center of things, finishing from close range in injury time for the only tally of the match. On the whole it was not a terribly inspired performance for the Dons, the visitors were well-organized and strong in the midfield for the majority of the afternoon. While Vernon's goal was left a bit late, it was not an ugly thing, with credit to both Jack and Aluko for setting the table.

I hate that I have to celebrate moving 6 points clear of relegation, but pride doesn't save a man from the drop zone. Hamilton have two matches in hand, which from an objective point of view sets up an interesting four-team relegation battle: