Why do I only get to write about ICT when we don't win. It can't be coincidence that our drop in form has come while regular contributor Andrew Sutherland has been missing; he's suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken laptop.
Caley Thistle's vulnerability at set pieces is becoming frightening; two more goals conceded in this game from these situations. I've previously noted that this weakness seems to have become prevalent since Ryan Esson replaced the taller, more commanding Dean Brill in goal, but no blame could be attached to him here. The first came as a consequence of an unfortunate flick on by David Raven, while the second was just shambolic, panicky defending of an awkward corner.
The frustration was all too palpable in Inverness; the home side played some terrific football for an hour and carved Aberdeen open again and again; Marley Watkins' extraordinary first half miss (Graeme Shinnie not only put it on a plate for him, but provided silver cutlery and china teacups as well) was just one of a host of clear chances spurned before Eddie Ofere's opener. On another day, it could have been three or four-nil to the home side before the lacklustre Dons turned the game on it's head.
At least there's no sign of the tools being downed ahead of a cup final. But if Caley Thistle blow third place, it'll be their own fault. LS
Celtic have ruined Dundee United's season
One of the unforeseen consequences of how well Aberdeen have been doing is having to pay attention to the results of the league leaders so late into a season. So with the Dons once again closing the gap to five points on Saturday afternoon, attention once again turned to Celtic's Sunday lunchtime appointment with Dundee United.
Mind-bogglingly, this was the seventh time the two sides had met this season, and the thought of the two sides meeting each other once again prompted the question of further league reconstruction to address the possibility of this happening again. if the Championship this season has shown us anything, it is that the league could easily support a competitive first tier of at least sixteen teams, and perhaps even more...
The prospect of these teams concluding their trilogy in seven parts clearly didn't enhuse the paying punters. Over 12,000 fans saw their first league encounter at Tannadice; by the time of the Scottish Cup Quarter Final, they barely made it over 10,000; and on Sunday, the attendance was well under five figures. Those matches have seen similarly diminishing returns for United in terms of results too - a win; a draw; and now a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.
Witnessing former Dees hitman Leigh Griffiths claiming all three goals must have had the United faithful choking on thier Tunnocks teacakes. It can't have helped that Arab supporters had to watch their former Terrors twosome play pivotal roles in their downfall - Stuart Armstrong was involved in the build-up play for the first goal, while Gary Mackay-Steven was brought down for the penalty (albeit the tackle was actually just outside the box) that led to the third. When Armstrong and Mackay-Steven departed Tannadice in February, Dundee United were looking forward to a Scottish League Cup final, still in the Scottish Cup, and only six points off the top of the Premiership. On Sunday they departed with a further three points towards a further Premiership title for their new employers, who had also dumped them out of both cup competitions.
As they watched GMS replace the Hazelhead Zola in the second half, you could have forgiven fans (and not just Arabs) wistfully wondering what might have been had both still been in tangerine and black, and not green and white hoops. MI
St. Mirren keep themselves relevant for a little longer
Back in August, I suggested on this very blog that the writing was already on the wall regarding St Mirren’s survival. Despite strong efforts from Ross County and Motherwell, nothing has happened in the subsequent eight month to make me change my opinion. But fair play to them for making the last few weeks of the season at least semi-interesting at the bottom of the table.
Firstly though, this game shouldn’t even have happened. Kilmarnock had requested a home fixture for the weekend to coincide with the 50th anniversary of their only top flight league win. Any sensible governing body would see the opportunity to assist one of their members to make the most of a great marketing opportunity at a time when it has never been more difficult to get people into a Scottish football stadium. But they didn’t. Idiots.
One good thing this game has done though is highlight the upside of another Scottish football oddity; the split. Victory against Kilmarnock means that The Buddies are now 7 points behind Motherwell with 4 games to play. That’s still an unlikely number of points to claw back, but now that they are only playing teams in the bottom half of the league, every game now looks winnable. Players and supporters have something to hold on to in a way they would if they had the equivalent of Hull’s fixtures in England.
A couple more unlikely results for St Mirren, and the visit of Motherwell on May 16th could actually be a bit of an occasion. IM
It can't be fluky that St. Johnstone are fourth
As one St. Johnstone fan put it on Twitter, "How come every team seems to have their 'worst performance of the season' against us?"
Paul Hartley was the latest vanquished manager to say as such, describing Dundee as "poor for the full game" and criticizing "our intensity, our tempo and how we passed the ball."
And yet, quietly, St. Johnstone have clambered up to fourth in the table, and, with the teams around them out of form, must feel they have a shot at nicking third. It's hard to put a finger on why they're doing so well, other than that they are clearly superb at stopping their opponents from playing. It's difficult to identify standout players; I first thought of Michael O'Halloran, but the forward didn't even start this game and the club's lack of goals - only St. Mirren have scored fewer this season - seems to contraindicate my instinct. That said, Danny Swanson's good form (he scored a great goal and was a menace throughout) should help them in the final third. So yeah, I'm really not sure how Tommy Wright's side have got into this position. But it clearly isn't a fluke.
Oh, and by the way - that dive from Greg Stewart? Embarrassing. LS
County lose their momentum
A fortnight off is probably the last thing Ross County needed, given a stunning run of form over the last couple of months; perhaps it hindered their momentum a bit. Or maybe the absence of the high-intensity Jackson Irvine, missing with injury, prevented them from pressing Partick Thistle as effectively as they needed to. Or maybe they really need to find a new keeper in the summer - Mark Brown was culpable for the second goal, might have done a bit better with the opener (I know Frederic Frans put his foot through it, but he was a long, long way out) and was nearly embarrassed when caught dallying in possession by Ryan Stevenson, and yet he's still a more reliable option than Antonio Reguero. Or maybe it's that the visitors were on top of their game; their only defeat in the last five was to Celtic.
Whatever the reason, County were rotten - only a single shot on goal all day, scored by Michael Gardyne early on against the run of play - and blew a great chance to open up a decisive gap on Motherwell. Next week's match at Fir Park is shaping up to be a right humdinger; if the Staggies lose that, then suddenly they are in a bit of trouble again. LS
Motherwell can't afford a Laing layoff
Accies' first goal on Friday night was painful for Motherwell and their fans in more ways than one. Coming when the Steelmen were well on top, it was just the latest example of terrible defending from the Steelmen this season - Steven McManus was caught woefully out of position, having failed to track Jason Scotland after winning an initial header against the Trinidadian, and Scotland was played in by a pass into the resultant gap; potentially worse is that McManus' fellow centre-back, Louis Laing, appeared to injure himself in a futile attempt to prevent the goal and had to go off.
Laing was replaced by Fraser Kerr, who looked as uncomfortable in the centre of defence as he does in every other position he has been used in this season. Whilst Motherwell might have got something from this match, had they not been dreadfully profligate in front of goal, they always give the impression of needing to score two or three goals to win at the best of times. If Laing doesn't recover quickly, their ability to keep opponents out is diminished further.
After showing signs of life, Ian Baraclough's side have now lost their last two. Lose at home to Ross County this weekend, and an eleventh place finish will be all but certain. LS
Martin Ingram (MI) is our Aberdeen Correspondent. Legend has it that he is the tallest man in the Red Army. He writes regularly for Aberdeen fanzine The Red Final.
Iain Meredith (IM) is technically a Rangers fan, but these days he tends to support them ironically. He only agreed to help with this blog because now he can tell his wife that he's "only watching the game to help a friend out".
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.
Andrew Sutherland (AS) occasionally writes for When Saturday Comes. He would never miss an ICT match unless he was offered a date with the lead singer of CHVRCHES...who he would then take to said ICT match.